skip to primary navigationskip to content

Schornack Group

Sebastian Schornack   

Research Group Leader

Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR

Office Phone: 01223 761145

Research Interests

Plants constantly engage in interactions with microbial organisms. These interactions can either be detrimental such as those with the economically relevant fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, the causal agent of the Irish Potato Famine or beneficial to supply phosphate such as in symbiotic interactions with mycorrhizal fungi that occur in most plant species.

Both, pathogenic and mutualistic symbioses follow structurally similar developmental processes to establish intracellular interfaces. It is generally accepted that both, plants and microorganisms contribute to the formation of dedicated accommodation structures. However, we know little about the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive differentiation of host cells and tissues to form intracellular interfaces.

The Schornack group aims to characterize the extent to which beneficial and detrimental microorganisms employ similar plant developmental processes for colonization. To this end we plan to assess the overlap between Mycorrhiza processes and root infection by the biotrophic pathogen Phytophthora palmivora and will characterize genetic elements with common functions. Furthermore, we will elucidate the role of microbial effectors for development of plant cells into intracellular accommodation structures. This work will reveal the boundaries between symbiosis and pathogenesis and will provide novel insights into plant development driven by biotic cues. 

Selected Recent Publications

Gavrin, A., Rey, T., Torode, T.A., Toulotte, J., Chatterjee, A., Kaplan, J.L., Evangelisti, E., Takagi, H., Charoensawan, V., Rengel, D., Journet, E.-P., Debellé, F., de Carvalho-Niebel, F., Terauchi, R., Braybrook, S., and Schornack, S. (2020) Developmental Modulation of Root Cell Wall Architecture Confers Resistance to an Oomycete Pathogen, Current Biology 30 (21), 4165-4176. e5.


Carella, P., Gogleva, A., Hoey, D.J., Bridgen, A.J., Stolze, S.C., Nakagami, H., and Schornack S. (2019) Conserved biochemical defenses underpin host responses to oomycete infection in an early-divergent land plant lineage
Current Biology 29 (14), 2282-2294. e5.


Carella, P., Gogleva, A., Tomaselli, M., Alfs, C., and Schornack, S. (2018) Phytophthora palmivora establishes tissue-specific intracellular infection structures in the earliest divergent land plant lineage. PNAS 115 (16).
Previously on bioRxiv (2017, Pre-Print). DOI: 10.1101/188912v1


Evangelisti E., Gogleva A., Hainaux H., Doumane M., Tulin F., Quan C., Yunusov T., Floch K., Schornack S. (2017) Time-resolved dual transcriptomics reveal early induced Nicotiana benthamiana root genes and conserved infection-promoting Phytophthora palmivora effectors. BMC Biol.


Rey T., Chatterjee A., Buttay M., Toulotte J., Schornack S. (2014) Medicago truncatula symbiosis mutants affected in the interaction with a biotrophic root pathogen. New Phytol. 206 (2)


Wang E., Schornack S., Marsh J.F., Gobbato E., Schwessinger B., Eastmond P., Schultze M., Kamoun S., Oldroyd G.E. (2012) A Common Signaling Process that Promotes Mycorrhizal and Oomycete Colonization of Plants. Curr Biol. 22 (23)


Bozkurt, T.O.*, Schornack, S.*, Win, J., Shindo, T., Oliva, R., Cano, L.M., Jones, A.M.E., Huitema, E., van der Hoorn, R.A.L., Kamoun, S. (2011) Phytophthora infestans effector AVRblb2 prevents focal secretion of a plant immune protease, PNAS 108 (51), * shared first authors


Chaparro-Garcia A., Wilkinson R.C., Gimenez-Ibanez S., Findlay K., Coffey M.D., Zipfel C., Rathjen J.P., Kamoun S.*, Schornack S.* (2011) The Receptor-Like Kinase SERK3/BAK1 Is Required for Basal Resistance against the Late Blight Pathogen Phytophthora infestans in Nicotiana benthamianaPLoS ONE 6(1). * shared corresponding authors


Schornack S.*, van Damme M.*, Bozkurt T.O., Cano L.M., Smoker M., Thines M., Gaulin E., Kamoun S., Huitema E. (2010): Ancient class of translocated oomycete effectors targets the host nucleus. PNAS 107(40). * shared corresponding authors


Selected reviews

Delaux, P.M., and Schornack S. (2021) Plant evolution driven by interactions with symbiotic and pathogenic microbes, Science 371 (6531).


Carella, P., and Schornack, S. (2017) Manipulation of bryophyte hosts by pathogenic and symbiotic microbes. Plant and Cell Physiology, pcx182


Fawke, S., Doumane, M., Schornack, S. (2015): Oomycete Interactions with Plants: Infection Strategies and Resistance Principles, Microbiol Mol Biol Rev.


Rey T., Schornack S. (2013): Interactions of beneficial and detrimental root-colonizing filamentous microbes with plant hosts. Genome Biol. 14(6). Review.


Schornack S., Moscou M.J., Ward E.R., Horvath D.M. (2013): Engineering Plant Disease Resistance Based on TAL Effectors. Annu Rev Phytopathol. 51. Review.


Schornack S., Huitema E., Cano L.M., Bozkurt T.O., Oliva R., Van Damme M., Schwizer S., Raffaele S., Chaparro-Garcia A., Farrer R., Segretin M.E., Bos J., Haas B.J., Zody M.C., Nusbaum C., Win J., Thines M., Kamoun S. (2009): Ten things to know about oomycete effectors. Mol Plant Pathol. 10(6). Review.

Current Group Members

Former Group Members

schornack2.jpgRed fluorescent Phytophthora colonising a Medicago truncatula (barrel medic) root


A GFP-labelled protein functions at Phytophthora haustoria structures


Research supported by:

royal society logoGatsbyuc-colour.gif

Read more here.