“Using Natural Variation in Tomato to Identify Novel Immune Responses to Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato”
Bacterial speck is a disease caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato that causes necrotic specks on tomato leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit. Bacterial speck can severely reduce yield and quality of affected fruit from susceptible plants. Until recently, speck had been well controlled through the resistance gene Pto, which encodes a protein that recognizes the bacterial effectors AvrPto and AvrPtoB in race 0 strains. Unfortunately, new race 1 strains have arisen that can overcome Pto-mediated resistance through the loss of AvrPto/AvrPtoB effectors. By screening tomato heirlooms, breeding lines, and a wild relative of tomato, we are searching for race 1 resistance against the disease and have identified several candidates that may have increased immune responses to detect the pathogen. These candidates will be followed up on in later projects. Any new sources of resistance found will be introduced into commercial tomato cultivars via collaborations with tomato breeders in the eastern U.S.
I have been pursuing a career in plant biology research since I entered college, but I could never figure out what exactly I wanted to specialize in. I came to BTI looking to learn more about possible directions I could take. I was especially intrigued by plant pathology and plant breeding. Previously, I hadn’t worked with pathogens in vivo so growing my own batches of plants to test was completely new to me. Thanks to the weekly lectures, the grad school panel, and actually working in the Martin lab, I have gained an increased appreciation of the complexity of these two fields. I feel like I have grown in my identity as a scientist and have gained confidence in my writing and lab techniques.