Evan Schnell
Year: 2021
Faculty Advisor: Jian Hua
Mentor: Leiyun Yang

“Transcriptional Regulation of Plant Immune Receptor NLR Genes in Immune Responses”

Project Summary:

Intracellular immune receptor NLR (nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat) proteins recognize pathogen effectors and lead to cellular responses. Most NLR genes are upregulated in response to pathogen infection and many NLR proteins are thought to increase plant immune response1. NLR genes are highly regulated. This is because an excessive immune response would cause energy to be diverted away from growth and reproduction while an insufficient immune response could result in increased susceptibility to pathogens.

Pathogen growth assays were performed to investigate the functions of an atypical set of NLR genes. These NLR genes experience reduced expression in response to pathogen infection. The results indicate that two of the atypical NLR genes encode proteins that suppress the cellular immune response. A genetic background that allows NLR activity to be visualized through growth phenotype was used to investigate the transcriptional regulation of the SNC1 NLR gene. The SNC1 gene encodes an enhanced immune response and is regulated by many WRKY transcription factors. The observed phenotypes indicate that two of the WRKY transcription factors independently repress SNC1 gene expression while two others redundantly repress SNC1 gene expression.

Understanding the function and regulation of NLR genes may allow for the creation of transgenic crops with immunities tailored toward their specific environments. Crops designed to have an immune response of optimal strength could result in increased yields and help feed growing populations.

  1. Yang, L., Wang, Z., & Hua, J. (1AD, January 1). A meta-analysis reveals opposite effects of biotic and Abiotic stresses On TRANSCRIPT levels of Arabidopsis Intracellular IMMUNE receptor genes. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2021.625729/full#B75.

My Experience:

As an intern in the Plant Genome Research Project, I had the opportunity to work as a part of Hua Lab. I enjoyed planning experiments, learning essential molecular biology lab techniques, and drawing conclusions based on the data I collected. I recently joined Hua Lab and will continue my research during the academic year.

I enjoyed the supplemental programs, courses and seminars that BTI offers to its interns. The BTI Bioinformatics Course helped me become more proficient with R and introduced me to the basics of using Unix. I also enjoyed the graduate student seminars where I learned how to approach the graduate school admission process and had the opportunity to meet with researchers in both academia and industry. I hope to follow in their footsteps.