Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security
Phone: 024 765 75136
Warwick Centres and GRPs
Vacancies and Opportunities
For PhD and postdoctoral opportunities, and interest in potential collaborations, please contact me at the above email address.
My group studies pathogenic and beneficial plant microbes interactions. The pathogenic are mainly bacterial pathogens and the beneficial a cool fungus called Trichoderma hamatum.
We undertake very multidisciplinary research using genetics, molecular biology, metabolomics (small molecule profiling), imaging, gene editing/genetic manipulation and bioelectrical signalling approaches for new discovery. In fact, we are interested in far too many things like;
Can we identify new novel disease resistance mechanisms that can be deployed to alleviate food security? This means we either need to understand how plant disease resistance proteins function or find a novel resistance mechanism.
How does the immediate environment influence plant immunity?
What makes a pathogen a pathogen? This includes how a pathogen can suppress plant immunity, which means we need to understand how the pathogen “effectors” (proteins and small molecules) collaborate to cause disease.
How does a plant talks to itself (long distance communication)?
We do lots of imaging – primarily whole plant but more recently subcellular using a range of reporters to look at spatial temporal dynamics of infection processes.
How are plant hormones (yes they have them!) manipulated by pathogens to promote infection?
What bioactive molecules do beneficial soil fungus produce to underpin their biocontrol and plant growth promotion activities?
Can we use gene editing to improve horticultural crops for enhanced immunity or nutritional value?
And last but not least, we also look at diseases of ash trees, banana and – yes false banana!
We are a very diverse group and (at the moment) well-funded, primarily by BBSRC/UKRI, The Royal Society and the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust.
Research: Technical Summary
My groups core research uses the Brassica-Xanthomonas (with Prof. Vardis Ntoukakis) and Arabidopsis-Pseudomonas model pathosystems to investigate mechanisms deployed by pathogen to suppress plant immunity. We additionally study the function of plant disease resistance proteins, their activation, and by extrapolation how activated they initiate systemic immunity.
Our research strengths are founded on integrating different "omic" approaches - particularly transcriptomics and metabolomics (Dr Lijang Song, Chemistry) - with whole plant imagining (luciferase and chlorophyll fluorescence based) to provide new insight into metabolic peturbation of host immunity and identification of long distance signalling molecules activating systematic immunity.
More recently my group has adopted genetically encoded receptors to better understand the importance of inter-organellular communication and the dynamics of metabolites such as ATP, NADPH and H2O2 in modulating plant-microbe interactions. Consequently, we have research programmes on the role of the chloroplast (Prof. Alex Jones, SLS) and endoplasmic reticulum (Prof Lorenzo Frigerio/Dr Emily Breeze) in plant immunity and this has underpinned an emerging interest in "metabolic immunity" and how small molecules, both hormones and primary metabolits (particularly NAD derived compounds) are influenced and modulated in plant disease and defense (Song/Ntoukakis).
Underpinned by a highly productive collaboration with Exeter colleague David Studholme, we study genomics of emerging "tree" pathogens and their hosts including tree infecting Phytophthora genomes, the banana pathogen Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (an more recently Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense Tropical Race 4) and their hosts, Ensete (orphan to Ethiopia) and banana. In collaboration with James Brown (JIC) we have applied untargeted metabolomics to discriminate the metabolome of European ash trees which are tolerant or susceptible to the ash dieback fungus Hymenpscyphus fraxineusi and are developing a diagnostic assay.
Our research into beneficial interactions currently focuses on the chemical basis of biocontrol conferred by the saprophytic fungus, Trachoderma hamatum using activity based assays for the fractionation and characterisation of a novel anti-fungal determinant.
For a full list of publications, see WRAP
- 2016 - Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security; School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, UK
- 2006 – 2016 Professor; School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, UK
- 2005 - 2006 Reader; Imperial College London, Wye Campus, Wye, UK
- 2002 - 2005 Senior Lecturer; Imperial College, University of London, UK
- 1998 - 2002 Lecturer; Wye College, Imperial College, University of London, UK
- 1996 - 1998 Lecturer; Leicester University, Leicester, UK
- 1995 – 1996 Senior Research Fellow; Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK.
- 1993 - 1995 EU Human Mobility Fellow; MPI for Plant Biology, Cologne, Germany
- 1988 - 1993 Research Scientist; Applied Biotechnology Division, DSIR, New Zealand
- 1988; Doctor of Philosophy, Biochemistry; Otago University, Dunedin, NZ:
- 1983; Bachelor of Science Hons. (1st class), Biochemistry, Otago University, Dunedin, NZ.