Root Microbiology Laboratory

The research focus in our laboratory is on understanding the plant-microbial interactions during disease development. Specifically, we investigate the crosstalk in a particularly destructive group of root-infecting fungi cause vascular-wilts. These fungi attack virtually all crops, colonizing the roots and xylem vessels which causes progressive wilting and death. Arguably, the most notorious of all vascular wilts is Fusarium oxysporum (Fo), a species complex that collectively infects different economically important crops such as legumes, melons, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and bananas, provoking devastating losses.

Using the fungal root pathogen Fusarium oxysporum, our research aims to identify the crucial regulatory mechanisms that establish multi-host interactions during fungal pathogenesis with plant roots. This involves understanding of the intercellular pathogenic crosstalk in the root intercellular space (apoplast) which determine compatibility processes, targeted by pathogenicity genes (effectors) and the signal transduction during host re-programming and modulation. We also decipher the host derived signals, that the fungus senses to reach the vasculature (its ultimate destination). We are interested in understanding the processes that guide the transition to either pathogenic/endophytic lifestyle that likely occur in the inner cell layers of root and the host re-programming during pathogenic and endophytic Fusarium sp. interaction. On an ecological scale, we are interested in understanding how microbial crosstalk in the rhizosphere shapes a disease outcome.