M2: Sensing of the plant environment and the fungal pathogen response in secretion, morphology and virulence

Gerhard Braus, Kai Heimel & James Kronstad
PhD students: Miriam Leonard, Lara Schmitz & Jessica Starke

(a) The fungal MAP kinase signal transduction pathway and the interaction to other signaling cascades (Gerhard Braus)

The fungal PKA and MAP kinase pathways interact with each other and are involved in environmental sensing and regulating fungal development and virulence.

The major goals of this project are to analyze the impact of the MAP kinase and PKA pathway and the connection between both signaling cascades in the vascular pathogen Verticillium dahliae, which colonizes the plant xylem of host plants as tomato.

(b) The fungal unfolded protein response (UPR) and its interplay with MAPK und PKA cascades (Kai Heimel)

Pathogenic development of the corn smut fungus Ustilago maydis is strictly dependent on the unfolded protein response (UPR) as a regulator of ER stress responses and fungal development. The aim of this project is to investigate how crosstalk between the UPR and other signaling pathways shapes the interaction between U. maydis and its host plant maize. Work within this project will comprise a wide range of genetic, biochemical and cell biological methods and will be carried out in close collaboration with the research groups of Prof. James Kronstad (UBC) and Prof. Gerhard Braus (UGOE).

(c) Fungal secretion response to plant environment and its potential relevance for virulence (Gerhard Braus)

The fungal secretome changes when the fungus is growing in an environment where plant materials as pectins are present in comparison to growth in the xylem sap.

The major goals of the thesis are to analyze xylem sap secreted proteins which are contributing to virulence and to monitor whether there is a connection between the MAP kinase, the PKA and the UPR pathway and secreted proteins.