Plants monitor and respond to their environment constantly, which is essential for their viability and fitness. The ultimate goal of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which plants perceive environmental signals and integrate signals to regulate their growth and development. We are using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model plant to investigate two distinct but interacting responses, one to temperature variations and one to pathogen invasions.
The first focus of our current research is to investigate how immune receptor R genes are regulated at the transcriptional level. R genes mediate the perception of pathogens and activate defense responses in plants. Constitutive expression or activation of R genes due to the loss of negative regulation of R genes triggers autoimmune responses. We are using these autoimmune mutants to genetically and molecularly dissect the signaling mechanisms that control R gene expression.
The second focus of our research is to investigate the interplay between temperature and plant immunity. Plant defense responses to pathogens are influenced by abiotic factors including temperature. An elevated temperature often inhibits disease resistance, however, molecular mechanisms of this modulation is not well understood. We are using Arabidopsis mutants that have altered temperature sensitivity in disease resistance to reveal components subject to temperature regulation and to understand the interaction between biotic and abiotic responses.