PhD Student (passed viva on 23 January)
47 Bateman Street
Cambridge CB2 1LR
Before joining Dr Schornack’s research group in October 2013, I completed an MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. During this time, I worked under the supervision of Professor James Brown on a research project concerning disease trade-offs, specifically the mechanism of susceptibility of Barley to Ramularia leaf spot disease elicited by powdery mildew resistance. My PhD research maintains this focus on plant-pathogen interactions.
The large majority of land plants (around 80%) interact with fungi in the soil in a symbiotic way, benefiting from improved nutrient acquisition and water uptake. This relationship is referred to as arbuscular mycorrhization. It was recently discovered that a single gene is crucial for enabling plants to interact with this particular group of beneficial soil fungi. Interestingly, it was also found that this same gene, RAM2 (“Required for Arbuscular Mycorrhization 2”) is involved in the invasion of plant roots by oomycete pathogens. Certain species of pathogenic oomycetes may have evolved a method of hijacking the existing mycorrhization signalling processes in order to gain access to the plant and establish themselves. One of these species is Phytophthora palmivora, a close relative of the serious pathogen of potato and tomato, Phytophthora infestans, which causes the devastating disease known as late blight. My PhD project investigates whether the function of RAM2 is conserved in the solanaceous species potato, tomato and tobacco with regard to infection by Phytophthora pathogens and colonisation by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. RAM2 is known to encode an enzyme involved in the formation of cutin monomers. However, our current understanding of how these monomers are involved in infection and/or colonisation is very limited, hence my interest in investigating this area further.