Virus particlesThe vast majority of plant viruses are very simple entities comprising a nucleic acid genome encoding from 4 to 10 proteins needed for multiplication, systemic spread within the host plant, and transmission to a new plant. Since the late 1800’s viruses have been recognized as significant pathogens of plants, and they lead to numerous diseases that cause significant yield losses in a variety of crops. Despite the simple nature of these pathogens, there is still much to be learned about how they interact with their hosts and cause disease.

Soybean rustSBR is caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi, which is an obligate biotrophic fungus. The primary source of inoculum is urediniospores produced on infected soybeans or on alternative legume hosts. This disease threatens soybean production around the world. Our lab investigates the molecular interactions that occur between soybean and P. pachyrhizi. The research investigates the defenses that soybean deploys as it tries to defend itself against the rust disease, and the offensive weapons (effectors) that the pathogen employs to shut down the soybean immune system and promote infection.

Soybean is the second most economically important row crop species in the United States, but very little information is available on the specific genes that regulate soybean defenses. The soybean crop is perennially subjected to attack by a variety of pathogens, and the average estimated annual soybean yield loss due to disease in the United States is over 400 million bushels.