Research on Plant-Parasite Interactions

One percent of the angiosperm plants are parasitic. Compared with other autotrophic plants, heterotrophic parasitic plants have interesting distinct physiology, ecology, and evolutionary history. Many parasitic plants infect crop plants and this leads to decreased or even complete loss of yield. These parasites are also hard to control due to their intrinsic connection with the hosts.

Using dodders (Cuscuta spp.), which are holoparasitic plants, as the model, we are interested in:

  1.Elucidating the mechanism of dodder foraging;

  2.Identifying the important dodder-specific genes which control the development, especially those mediate the development of haustoria;

  3.The molecular mechanisms of dodder transport of host nutrients, secondary metabolites and macromolecules;

  4.Identifying genes that are important for host defense against parasitization.

Research objective: To understand the physiology, ecology, and evolutionary history of dodder and develop dodder bio-control methods.

Research on Plant-Insect Interactions

Using several model plant species, mainly maize and the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata, and Arabidopsis thaliana, we intend to answer the following research questions:

1.     How do plants sense the attack of insects?

2.    Which genes are involved in herbivory-induced signal transduction, and how do they execute their functions?

3.    Which plant secondary metabolites are induced by herbivore feeding and have anti-herbivore functions? Which genes encode their biosynthetic enzymes?