Fungi have enormous impact on human welfare by destroying valuable crops and producing toxins that are harmful to humans and livestock. My interest lies in the identification and characterization of genes essential for fungal development and pathogenesis. My lab works with the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae and the wheat scab fungus Fusarium graminearum. Rice blast is one of the most severe diseases on rice and is a model to study fungal-plant interactions. Current efforts are focused on the signal transduction pathways that regulate infection-related morphogenesis and infectious growth after penetration. We are also using proteomics and functional genomics approaches to identify pathogenesis-related genes and characterize their interactions during plant infection.
The wheat scab fungus is a less studied but important pathogen that can cause devastating outbreaks on wheat and barley worldwide. Besides yield loss, F. graminearum also produced a variety of mycotoxins, including vomitoxin and zearalenone. Currently, we are using comparative genomics approaches to study genes that are important for F. graminearum biology and pathogenesis (in comparison with F. orysporum and F. verticillioides). We are also studying molecular mechanisms regulating Fusarium-wheat interactions and DON production in flowering wheat heads.