Lisa Vaillancourt

Professional Profile





Research in the Vaillancourt laboratory is focused on understanding molecular mechanisms of fungal pathogenicity to plants, with the ultimate goal of developing improved methods for management of important fungal diseases. We use a combination of cytology, genetics, and genomics to address our research questions. We have two main projects:

  1. The comparative analysis of Colletotrichum anthracnose diseases of various monocot and dicot hosts. Colletotrichum is one of the most common and important genera of plant pathogenic fungi, affecting nearly every species of plant grown for food or fiber worldwide. Colletotrichum fungi share certain aspects of their pathogenic behavior, including in many cases a hembiotrophic mode of infection that involves a developmental and genetic switch from biotrophic or endophytic colonization of living host cells, to utilization of dead tissues accompanied by the production of severe blight and rot symptoms. The comparative Colletotrichum project includes components related to population genetics, developmental biology, and comparative genomics.
  2. Understanding the etiology of corn stalk rot disease. Corn stalk rot has been estimated to cause losses of between 5 and 10 percent of potential yield annually. Corn stalk rot is difficult to control because it is caused by several different fungi, and because the disease outcome is strongly influenced by the environment and by host physiology. Currently, very little is known about corn stalk rot, and the Vaillancourt laboratory is one of the few labs in the world working on this disease syndrome. Our goal is to undertake a comparative analysis of the three major fungal causal agents of stalk rot, Colletotrichum graminicolaStenocarpella maydis, and Gibberella zeae, to uncover common themes of their development and pathogenicity to corn stalks, and of the corn response to these pathogens under various physiological and environmental conditions. This may facilitate development of management tools that would be more generally effective against stalk rots. Some of our work on this project has been done in collaboration with industry partners.



  • PPA 640: Identification of Plant Diseases (co-taught with Dr. Kiersten Wise)
  • PPA 650: Fungal Biology
  • PPA 500: Physiology of Plant Health and Disease (Team Taught)

Additional Information


  • Ph.D. in Plant Pathology, 1991, Purdue University 
  • M.S. in Plant Pathology, 1987, University of Illinois
  • B.S. in Biology, 1984, University of Connecticut

Employment Highlights

  • Professor, University of Kentucky, 2009 to present
  • Associate Professor, University of Kentucky, 2002-2009
  • Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, 1996-2002
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Vermont, 1991-1996 

Awards, Recognition, Service

  • Bobby Pass Excellence in Grantsmanship Award, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, 2010
  • George E. Mitchell Jr. Outstanding Faculty Award for Service to Graduate Students, Gamma Sigma Delta, 2007  

Professional Affiliations

  • American Phytopathology Society
  • Mycological Society of America

Recent Research Publications

2012 to present (see Vaillancourt Lab pages for a more complete list)

  • Xavier, K., Pfeiffer, T., Parreira, D. F., Chopra, S., Vaillancourt, L. 2017. Aggressiveness of Colletotrichum sublineola strains from Sorghum bicolor and S. halepense to sweet sorghum variety Sugar Drip, and their impact on yield. Plant Disease, 101(9), 1578-1587
  • Buiate, E. A. S., Xavier, K. V., Moore, N., Torres, M. F., Farman, M. L., Schardl, C. L., Vaillancourt, L. J. 2017. A comparative genomic analysis of putative pathogenicity genes in the host-specific sibling species Colletotrichum graminicola and Colletotrichum sublineola. BMC genomics, 18(1), 67.
  • Munir, M.,Amsden, B., Dixon, E., Vaillancourt, L., Ward Gauthier, N.A. 2016. Characterization of Colletotrichum species causing bitter rot of apple in Kentucky orchards. Plant Disease, 100: 2194-2203
  • Torres, M.F., Ghaffari, N., Buiate, E.A.S., Moore, N., Schwartz, S., Johnson, C.D., Vaillancourt, L.J. 2016. A Colletotrichum graminicola mutant deficient in the establishment of biotrophy reveals early transcriptional events in the maize anthracnose disease interaction. BMC Genomics, 17(1).1
  • Bec, S., Ward, T., Farman, M., O’Donnell, K., Hershman, D., Van Sanford, D., Vaillancourt, L.J. 2015. Characterization of Fusarium strains recovered from wheat with symptoms of head blight in Kentucky. Plant Disease, 99: 1622-1632
  • Torres, M.F., Cuadros, D.F., Vaillancourt, L.J. 2014. Evidence for a diffusible factor that induces susceptibility in the Colletotrichum–maize disease interaction. Molecular Plant Pathology 15.1: 80-93. BEST STUDENT PAPER FOR THE YEAR.
  • Crouch, J., O’Connell, R., Gan, P., Buiate, E., Torres, M., Beirn, L., Shirasu, K., Vaillancourt, L. (2014) The genomics of Colletotrichum. In R.A. Dean, A. Lichens-Park, C. Kole, eds, Genomics of plant-associated fungi and oomycetes: Monocot pathogens. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 69-102
  • Barcelos, Q.L., Pinto, J.M.A., Vaillancourt, L.J., Souza, E.A. 2014. Characterization of Glomerella strains recovered from anthracnose lesions on common bean plants in Brazil. PLoS ONE 9(3): e90910. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.009091060-1065
  • O’Connell, R.J., Thon, M., Hacquard, S., Amyotte, S.G., Kleeman, J., Torres, M.F., Damm, U., Buiate, E.A., Epstein, L., Alkan, N., Altmuller, J., Alvarado-Balderrama, L., Bauser, C. A., Becker, C., Birren, B.W., Chen, Z., Choi, J., Crouch, J., Duvick, J.P., Farman, M.A., Gan, P., Heiman, D., Henrissat, B., Howard, R.J., Kabbage, M., Koch, C., Kracher, B., Kubo, Y., Law, A.D., Lebrun, M-H., Lee, Y-H., Miyara, I., Moore, N., Neumann, U., Nordstrom, K., Panaccione, D.G., Panstruga, R., Place, M., Proctor, R.H., Prusky, D., Rech, G., Reinhardt, R., Rollins, J.A., Rounsley, S., Schardl, C.L., Scwartz, D.C., Shenoy, N., Shirasu, K., Sikhakolli, U.R., Stuber, K., Sukno, S.A., Sweigard, J.A., Takano, Y., Takahura, H., Trail, F., van der Does, H.C., Voll, L.H., Will, I., Young, S., Zeng, Q., Zhang, J., Zhou, S., Dickman, M.B., Schulz-Lefert, P., Ver Loren van Themaat, E., Ma, L-J., .Vaillancourt, L.J. 2012. Lifestyle transitions in the plant pathogenic Colletotrichum fungi deciphered by genome and transcriptome analyses. Nature Genetics 44: 1060-1065