Research Projects

Systemic acquired resistance

Systemic acquired resistance (SAR) is a unique form of induced immunity in plants that provides protection against a broad spectrum of secondary pathogens. SAR involves the generation of mobile signals at the site of primary infection, which then travel to systemic portions of the plant and prepare them for subsequent infections by related or unrelated pathogens. We are interested in understanding the mechanism of mobile signal generation, movement and perception resulting in the onset of systemic immunity.


Functional genomics: soybean fatty acid/triacyl glyceolipid biosynthesis

Our studies have shown that glycerol-3-phosphate (G3P) an obligatory precursor of all glycerolipid biosynthesis is an essential regulator of both local and systemic defense responses. Likewise, the monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid (18:1) not only regulates local defense responses but is a key precursor for mobile signal generation during SAR. We are interested in functionally characterizing the metabolic activities that regulate the metabolism of these key molecules to fully characterize the connection between glycerolipid metabolism and defense signaling.

Microbial effector recognition in soybean

The plant immune response is triggered upon effector-derived perturbations of key cellular proteins. We are interested in identifying such targets to better understand how plants perceive pathogen presence. These studies have led us to identify proteins that contribute to plant defense as well as pathogen virulence. On-going efforts are directed towards identifying the biological processes that are specifically perturbed by pathogen effectors.


Plant symbiotic interactions

It is well known that plant defense signaling overlaps significantly with responses to beneficial microbes. We are particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms via which plants exclude specific strains of beneficial bacteria and whether that process overlaps with defense signaling against pathogenic bacteria. 

Research News Highlights

Research related to travel routes of mobile inducers of systemic resistances
in Nature Plants
in UK Ag News 
in Science Daily


Research related to function of galactolipids in systemic immunity highlighted
in Chemistry and Biology (Milka, 21: 1597-1598)
UK Ag News


Research related to function of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species in systemic immunity highlighted
in Global Medical Discovery
Morning Ag Clips
in UK Ag News 


Research related to function of RNA silencing components in effector-triggered immunity highlighted
in UK Ag News
in Southeast Farm Press 


Research related to light-mediated regulation of viral defense highlighted
in The Ag Magazine (A College of Agriculture publication, Fall 2011, pg 23)


Reserach related to plant systemic immunity highlighted
in Science Daily 


Research related to bean pod mottle virus featured
in Soybean Sentinel (A Kentucky Soybean Association magazine. Fall 2010, pg 16)


Research related to soybean research featured on the cover
of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (2008, 21:564)