Research Plant Virology
Our long-term interest has been to understand the mechanisms of virus disease, specifically in potyviruses and potexviruses -- common families infecting a wide range of crops. We endeavor to use our understanding in engineering novel methods for crop disease control.
We have focused over the last decade on how virus proteins interact with cellular membranes in their host plants. We have uncovered genetic stress response machinery that appears to down-regulate virus infection, creating a tolerant state in the plant. When this stress response is compromised, the host plant becomes sick and necrotic. Our research aims to identify ways to increase plant vigor and yields in the face of virus infection, by empowering this cellular stress response machinery.
We have identified the potyvirus 6K2 and potexvirus TGB3 proteins as two small membrane-binding proteins that reside mainly in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER.) We have reported that these proteins are recognized by the IRE1/bZIP60 stress response machinery of the ER. This recognition activates a signal transduction pathway, improving plant tolerance to virus infection. Our research is geared toward elucidating the machinery that lies downstream of IRE1 and bZIP60, which controls virus infection.
We have worked closely with the canna lily industry and have reported the virus genome sequences for potyviruses and badnaviruses that are infecting these hybrid cultivars.
We work with growers to develop best practices for greenhouse and field production to limit disease and segregate healthy plant stocks for next-year production.