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Plant Disease Resistance


Our research focuses on plant-microbe interactions, particularly host responses to pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, we study the mechanisms underpinning biocontrol and apply various “omics” techniques (including untargeted metabolomics) to study disease and disease resistance in important plant species such as ash, enset and banana.

Core Research Themes

Innate immunity and effector-triggered immune suppression

Chloroplast immunity

Animation attribution to Dr George Littlejohn.

Early signalling events in systemic immunity

Group Members

Professor Murray Grant

Group leader.

Follow Murray on Twitter @MuzzaphytopathLink opens in a new window.

Dr Ruma Debbarma

Ruma’s research focuses on horticultural crop improvement using plant tissue culture and plant molecular biology techniques. Her research supports the successful establishment and operation of the Elizabeth Creak Horticulture Technology Centre (ECHTC), a new facility focused on horticultural crop improvement.

Dr Shannon Greer

Post-doctoral Researcher on the Xanthomonas Threats ConsortiumLink opens in a new window. Shannon's research focuses on identifying and mapping host resistance to Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris the causal agent of black rot in Brassica.

Follow Shannon on Twitter @DrShannonGreerLink opens in a new window and LinkedInLink opens in a new window.

Sara Abdelsayed

Post-graduate research student whose research focuses on novel MYB transcription factor containing a transcriptional repressor (EAR) domain that negatively regulates Arabidopsis defence responses to the hemibiotrophic pathogen Pseudomonas syringae, which is predicted to have a role in the abscisic acid hormone signalling pathway. ​Sara's scholarship is funded by the Egyptian government.

Nestoras Kargios

MIBTP PhD student studying a novel concept of nucleoside decoys in plant immunity. Nestoras's project is funded by BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership and aims to understand immunity suppression mechanisms, which will significantly contribute towards the efforts to build durable crop resistance.

Megan Lewis

Post-graduate research student in Plant Defence Response Research group at the University of Warwick. Megan focuses on the intracellular immune receptor RPM1. She aims to apply core biochemical techniques to identify how RPM1 interacts with potential components of the signalling pathways as well as to how altering these interactions affects the plant defence response phenotype through generating CRISPR Arabidopsis lines.

Find Megan on Twitter @MeganLewis_1Link opens in a new window and LinkedInLink opens in a new window.

Sadik Muzemil

University of Warwick Chancellor's International fellow PhD student. Sadik’s project aims to generate high-quality genomic data for enset (Ensete ventricosum) and also looks into sources of resistance in enset to Xanthomonas wilt disease caused by Xanthomonas vasicola pv. musacearum.

Follow Sadik on Twitter @sadikmz.Link opens in a new window

Jamie PikeLink opens in a new window

PhD student whose project aims to develop new tools for predicting the spread of Fusarium wilt in banana. Jamie's work is funded by the Waitrose Collaborative Training PartnershipLink opens in a new window and jointly supervised by Dr David Studholme (University of Exeter), Dr Dan Bebber (University of Exeter), and Jim Flambert (Primafruit).

Follow Jamie on Twitter @jamielpike56.Link opens in a new window

Lab Alumni
Dr John Sidda

John’s research involved genome and metabolome mining for biomarkers of plant diseases and the characterisation of small molecules involved in the interactions between fungal pathogens and biocontrol agents. John’s work was part of a BBSRC-funded project on ‘retaining the ashes’.

Some of this work was published in Scientific Reports: Diversity of secoiridoid glycosides in leaves of UK and Danish ash provide new insight for ash dieback management.

Read more about retaining the ashes here or watch Dr John Sidda discuss his research into ash dieback on BBC Midlands Today's Lunchtime News with David Gregory-Kumar below.

Follow John on Twitter @JohnSiddaLink opens in a new window and LinkedInLink opens in a new window.

Dr Susan Breen

Susan’s research involved understanding the role chloroplasts play in generating an immune response during pathogen infection. By utilising the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae the different layers of immune signalling were investigated to elucidate the contribution of the chloroplast. This was addressed by a combination of methodologies including proteomics, genetically encoded reporters and protein interaction studies. Susan’s work was part of a BBSRC-funded project on ‘Chloroplast Immunity; a new opportunity for enhancing Food Security’.

A review on chloroplast immunity was published in New Phytologist TansleyLink opens in a new window reviews.

Follow Susan on Twitter @sbreen13Link opens in a new window.

Emily Conyers

Emily's Master’s focused on immunity suppression mechanisms used by Pseudomonas syringae to infect Arabidopsis thaliana. The project’s primary focus was to characterise the role of truncated TNLs in plant immunity. Better understanding TNL function should contribute to our efforts in mitigating crop losses caused by plant pests and pathogens.

Find Emily on LinkedInLink opens in a new window.

Amelia Dixon

Master’s student whose project focused on the impact of phytohormones on systemic immunity activation, in particular, the role of abscisic acid and jasmonic acid in long-distance signalling.


Chloroplasts do the darndest things

A new BBSRC grant has been awarded worth £798,000 to investigate nucleoside decoys - metabolic interference in plant defence.

Murray comments in Science|Business on the UK gearing up to diverge from EU on targeted genetic modifications in farming.

CRISPR: A better way to 5-a-day

Chemical clues in leaves can reveal ash tree resistance to deadly disease, press release

Useful Links

Towards Engineering Resistance against FOC

Xanthomonas Threats: Bacterial Plant Diseases UK

Warwick Legacies: Elizabeth Creak