Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, June 2017

Guotian Li, Rashmi Jain, and Mawsheng Chern, featured first authors of The Sequences of 1504 Mutants in the Model Rice Variety Kitaake Facilitate Rapid Functional Genomic Studies

Guotian Li

Current Position: Deputy Director of Grass Genetics/Project Scientist at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a joint position between Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Davis, USA.

Education: PhD: Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue University, USA.

Non-scientific Interests: Traveling, reading and playing with kids.

I completed my PhD in Dr. Jin-Rong Xu’s lab at Purdue University, working on MAPK signaling pathways in the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae (Li et al., Environmental Microbiology 2017). I was passionate about this fungal-rice pathosystem but my experience in rice immunity was limited. After I finished my PhD, I was fortunate that Dr. Pamela Ronald at the University of California-Davis offered me a postdoc opportunity to work on rice. However, I quickly realized that working on a plant species that typically has a life cycle of six months is challenging. Taking advantage of the resource in the laboratory, I co-led the team at the University of California-Davis and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to establish this whole-genome sequenced mutant population in the model rice variety Kitaake that can be grown up to four generations a year. We are sequencing more mutants and assembling the Kitaake genome and will provide a complete toolkit to accelerate rice functional genomics.

Rashmi Jain

Current Position: Assistant Specialist in Prof. Pamela Ronald’s Lab, University of California-Davis and Feedstock Division, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Education: M.Sc. (2006) in Bioinformatics, Sikkim Manipal University, India.

Non-scientific Interests: Painting, cooking, watching movies, listening to music.

I was born at Palwal, a small town in Haryana state in India. While being a biology undergraduate I got attracted to learn computer concepts and programming and joined Aptech Computer Education. After getting my bachelor degree I got a chance to learn bioinformatics, a blend of Biology and Computer Science. I took admission for Masters in Bioinformatics, while studying I got practical experience by working with eminent scientist at University of Delhi. There I learned more about Genome analysis, functional genomics, phylogenetic and data curation. In 2013, I joined Pamela Ronald’s lab and I got a wonderful opportunity to work on Fast Neutron generated Kitaake rice mutant collection project, where I work with bioinformaticians from the Joint Genome Institute and many other brilliant scientists from UC-Davis. I always feel proud of working on this project which facilitates forward and reverse genetics and help many researchers. While analyzing data and developing online resource for this collection I always enjoyed my work and yes there is still a long way to go. We aim to sequence 4000 mutants and would keep updating KitBase.

Mawsheng Chern

Current Position: Associate Project Scientist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Education: BS and MS from National Taiwan University. Ph D in Biological Sciences from University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Non-scientific Interests: Practice of Tai-chi and Buddhism.

I generated the mutant population in the Kitaake rice genetic background initially for forward-genetics screens using fast neutron irradiation a few years ago. When whole genome re-sequencing became more and more affordable, we decided to pursue sequencing of individual plants in this mutant collection to establish a fast-neutron-induced mutant resource for rice functional genomics. We were able to achieve this goal thanks to the collaboration with the Joint Genome Institute. We are currently still expanding the number of our sequenced rice mutant lines and hoping to reach a greater coverage of the rice genome (aiming for 90%), thanks to the support from the Joint BioEnergy Institute.

Marlies Riedlmeier, featured first author of Monoterpenes Support Systemic Acquired Resistance within and between Plants

Current Position: Administration and Contract Management, camLine GmbH Petershausen, Germany.

Education: PhD at the Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology, Helmholtz Center Munich, Germany; M.Sc. Biology at the Technical University Munich, Germany.

Non-scientific Interests: Gardening, horse riding, and my toddler.

My interest for plant biology comes from my childhood. As a small child I spent a lot of time in our large vegetable garden with my mother, helping her to make stocks for the winter. This interest brought me to a Master`s degree study in biology at the Technical University of Munich. My PhD position at the Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, was a further step deeper into plant science. Safeguarding the basic food supply to a continually growing world population is one of the future’s greatest challenges for the western industrial countries. Research in plant resistance was an opportunity for me to contribute to achieving this goal and work for a good cause. The phenomena of systemic acquired resistance, which the Vlot lab studies, has inspired me right from the beginning. Permanently switching on this particular type of plant defence mechanism could be central to reducing the amounts of pesticides used today. With Corina Vlot’s expertise in the field of systemic acquired resistance and Andrea Ghirardo’s wide-ranging experience in VOC detection, I was able to merge the best of these two research fields. For the first time we could show systemic acquired resistance between Arabidopsis plants resulting from volatile signaling molecules functioning as infochemicals. Beside the often used common biotechnological and genetic methods, technical skills and innovative ideas for the experimental set-ups were required during my project. Fascinating in the daily work with systemic acquired resistance is that the effects of systemic acquired resistance and of inter-plant communication on disease symptoms can be seen on the plants already with the naked eye.

Nerina Gnesutta, featured first author of CONSTANS Imparts DNA Sequence Specificity to the Histone Fold NF-YB/NF-YC Dimer

Current Position: Assistant Professor in Biochemistry, Human Molecular Genetics Group, Department of Biosciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Education: PhD: Molecular and Cellular Biology, Dept. General Physiology and Biochemistry, Università degli Studi di Milano.

Non-scientific Interests: Baking bread and cakes, sailing, and solving crossword puzzles.

During my post-graduate studies in Milan and as a PostDoc at Columbia University in NYC, I have been interested in molecular networks of signaling proteins that control growth, differentiation and survival in mammalian cells. After returning to Italy as Assistant Professor, I started to analyse gene expression regulation by studying molecular interactions of transcription factors with a structural approach, focusing on the histone-like TF NF-Y, and its role as promoter organiser. Within this fruitful collaboration with Prof. Roberto Mantovani, I contributed to determining the 3D structure of the NF-Y heterotrimer in complex with its target DNA element, the CCAAT box. More recently, I became involved in Plant Sciences, as I was mesmerized by the numerous processes in which NF-Y subunits genes are implicated, and by the combinatorial potential of this multigene TF family in plants. We set out to exploit our knowledge on the mammalian NF-Y to start to untangle and clarify the molecular interactions of plant-specific TFs involved in flowering time. With our work published in this issue of Plant Cell, we could establish that the histone-fold dimeric subunits of NF-Y can partake in different TF complexes by providing a scaffold for sequence-specific DNA recognition of CONSTANS, opening suggestive scenarios on timely control of transcriptional regulation by histone-fold based TF complexes.

Stephan Wawra and Franziska Trusch featured first authors of The RxLR Motif of the Host Targeting Effector AVR3a of Phytophthora infestans Is Cleaved Before Secretion

Stephan Wawra

Current Position: Group leader Protein Biochemistry in the Group of Prof. Dr. Alga Zuccaro (CEPLAS, University of Cologne, Germany).

Education: Diploma (2002) and PhD (2007) in Biochemistry: Max-Planck Research Group for Enzymology of Protein Folding (Halle/Saale, Germany).

Non-scientific Interests: Hiking, climbing, scuba diving.

During my Biochemistry studies, I became fascinated by the fact that even small protein modifications can have dramatic effects on protein structural dynamics that in turn can translate into distinct biological properties and functions. Thus, I decided to learn more about these effects during my PhD analyzing the influence of single conformational switches within polyproline helices. Starting my Postdoc career in 2007, I moved on to work on mechanistical and biophysical aspects of effector protein function and host cell translocation in the Aberdeen Oomycete Laboratory. During this time it became clear from the work of several groups that a subgroup of effector proteins from plant pathogenic oomycetes, like P. infestans, carry a distinct signal within their primary sequence, the RxLR-motif, that targets these proteins into the cytosol of host cells under attack. However, how this is achieved and the role of the RxLR-motif for this process is still under debate. Over the last years several reports described a possible model that proposed a direct physical role for the RxLR-motif in the host cell translocation process. However, this model is not in agreement with all the present data found in the literature. Therefore, in order to provide the basis for an alternative model describing the function of the RxLR-motif we set out to perform a detailed biochemical analysis of secreted native AVR3a. This allowed us to formulate an alternative model that is in agreement with all the reported data so far and that is also accessible for verification.

Franziska Trusch

Current Position: Research Fellow, Aberdeen Oomycete Laboratory, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen.

Education: BSc (2009) and MSc (2011) in Medical Biology, Dr. rer. nat. in Structural and Medicinal Biochemistry (2014); University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.

Non-scientific Interests: Gym, cooking, doing jigsaws and my dog.

Proteins are involved in every single process of life as we know it today. When doing my undergraduate studies, I discovered my passion for the structure of proteins and the relation to their functions. Hence, I did an internship in Prof. Peter Bayer’s lab in Essen-Duisburg in 2010, analysing the first NMR spectra of AVR3a, which is probably the best studied effector protein of the plant pathogenic oomycete Phytophthora infestans. During my PhD-studies, I focused on other projects to expand my knowledge of biophysical and biochemistry methods beyond NMR techniques. For my PostDoc, I wanted to lay the foundation for the rest of my career by finding a research field in which I not just only do basic research but also where the results can be further transferred to potential applications. Fortunately, a position became available towards the end of my PhD with Prof. Pieter van West at the University of Aberdeen, who is working on plant and animal pathogenic oomycetes that affect the agri- and aquaculture industries. The understanding of effector proteins that establish and promote the infection process on protein level became the main focus of my work as well as the identification of key processes and targets for the development of new control strategies for oomycetes. Now, 7 years later, with several steps further in my career, I am proud having been involved in the discovery of the cleavage of an RxLR effector from P. infestans and thereby reopen the discussion of effector translocation in oomycetes.