Dalton Bichlmeier
Dalton Bichlmeier
Year: 2016
Faculty Advisor: Adam Bogdanove

Using designer Transcription Activator-Like effectors to characterize the role of a rice ethylene response factor for Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola virulence

Project Summary

The Earth’s population has been predicted to reach 10 billion people by 2050.  Current food production levels cannot sustain a population of that size.  Rice is a staple food crop for 50% of the world population.  One way of increasing rice yields is to provide farmers with rice lines that are more resistant to disease.  Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola (Xoc) is a rice pathogen that causes bacterial leaf streak, a disease responsible for 30% yield loss. During the infection, Xoc injects type-III effectors inside the plant cells.  Among these type III effectors, there are transcription activator-like effectors or TAL that are able to manipulate the host transcriptome by inducing expression of specific target genes.  Within the group of targeted genes, there are susceptibility genes (S) that can promote disease, resistance genes (R) that promote resistance, or collateral targets.  Both Xoc and Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo), another rice pathogen, induce an Ethylene Response Factor (ERF) in rice and it has been shown to play a role in host susceptibility.  Interestingly, ERF encodes a protein belonging to the same subgroup of proteins know to be implicated in resistance to several pathogens in tomato, Arabidopsis, and others.  Here, we investigate the function of ERF using designer Transcription Activator-Like effectors (dTALEs) that target the ERF promoter.  We show that depending on where that dTALE targets along the promoter; some dTALEs conferred resistance to Xoc.

My Experience

I was completely blown away with how much I learned in a short 10-weeks while in this internship!  My mentor, Mathilde Hutin, was the most amazing teacher and showed me how to conduct plant pathology research.  Through this internship I was able to hone my skills ranging from extracting plasmids, to electroporation transformations, to inoculating rice plants.  This opportunity helped me narrow down what I wanted to do after my undergrad program and taught me just how amazing plant research can be!  Also, I was able to make personal and professional connections with PI’s, post-docs, and grad students that will be beneficial when applying to graduate school and into the future.  From here, I plan on applying to plant pathology programs to work on host resistance genes towards pathoge.