Kaitlin Morey
Kaitlin Morey
Year: 2013

Identifying Kinases in the MAP Kinase Signaling Pathway

Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) signaling cascade is an evolutionary-conserved mechanism of signal transduction present in all eukaryotes. Plant MAPK modules play an important role in the induction of plant innate immunity by amplifying pathogen-derived signals received at the membrane and transducing the signals into altered gene expression, making the pathway an essential step in the establishment of pathogen resistance. Bacterial pathogens inject effectors into the plant cells when attacking that interfere with the host immune response. Because of the important function of the MAPK cascade, bacteria target this pathway to disrupt plant defense mechanisms. Several kinases have been identified in our lab to interact with bacterial effector proteins using an in vivo Split Luciferase Complementation Assay (SLCA). We named these kinases “candidate effector targets” (CETs). To further study the CETs, I performed an assay whereby their role in immune MAPK signal transduction was tested. Preliminary results lead us to identify several kinases that may be involved in the MAPK Signaling Cascade as negative regulators of cell death. Further testing is needed to confirm these results. Innate resistance is the most effective and environmentally friendly method of crop protection, and by better understanding the molecular aspects of plant immunity; scientists can more successfully breed resistant crops.

My Experience

My time as a BTI intern has been wonderfully exciting and educational. I greatly appreciate being given the opportunity to learn about and explore the molecular aspects of plant immunity first hand through managing my own research project. The PGRP Seminar Series was a great way to introduce us to cutting edge plant science research and to the faculty spearheading these exciting projects. After I graduate from Rutgers University in the spring, I will continue using the skills I’ve learned this summer as I pursue a doctorate degree in Plant Pathology. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Popescu for giving me the opportunity to work in her lab, and to Dr. Singh for his dedication to being an excellent mentor and unending patience.