Targeting the role of kinases in tomato PAMP-triggered immunity
Crop plants play a critical role in agriculture and the global economy. Unfortunately, tomatoes, among other crops, face constant threat from pathogens such as the Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) bacterium that limit crop yields. Pst secretes Type III Effectors proteins that undermine the plant’s immune response by interfering with plant kinases that play a crucial role in signal transduction pathways. Still, tomatoes have highly intricate defense mechanisms involving protein receptors such as kinases (RLKS) and cytosolic kinases to battle encounters with bacteria and other pathogens. Our research is based on testing the role of specific kinases in tomato immunity using cloning methods and virus induced gene silencing (VIGS) to silence specific targets. After performing a functional assay on the silenced tomato plants using Pst, we hypothesize that kinases involved in tomato immunity will contribute to a significant difference in bacterial growth. Understanding the role of individual kinases in tomato immunity will allow us to exploit signaling mechanisms in order to prevent infection and improve large scale agriculture. Because tomato is a model plant, an understanding of pathogen resistance in tomatoes can also potentially be applied to widely used crops and their signaling pathways.
The PGRP internship gave me the exciting opportunity to work in a renowned facilities, with experts in plant biology. By being introduced to scientific research that was important, I gained critical skills and a better understanding of the applications of plant science. The BTI internship taught me how to design experiments, to troubleshoot in the laboratory, and to refine my scientific writing skills. Moreover, I benefitted from collaborating in a dynamic, thought-provoking environment alongside highly motivated researchers. My time at BTI has exposed me to an array of ideas and techniques and has helped me cultivate an interest in scientific research that has shaped my future plans. I would like to thank my mentor Elizabeth Brauer, the Popescu lab, and Tiffany Fleming for this transformative experience.