Evolution of Pathogen Resistance in Plants

Durable resistance to pathogens is rarely achieved in an agricultural context, posing a significant threat to food security. However, resistance is often long-lived in natural systems, with resistance and susceptibility being stably maintained for millions of years. 

Our project aims to decipher the factors that enable the long-term maintenance of plant resistance to disease in natural systems. Our ultimate goal is to apply these insights in an agricultural context, particularly concerning crops such as the date palm that are important to the UAE and the Gulf region. Several factors should impact the durability of resistance, but perhaps the best recognized is ecological context. 

Crops are typically grown in monoculture, whereas natural plant communities are genetically diverse. Recent work has revealed that alternative hosts for a generalist pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae, and a diverse microbiome within host tissues together drive the maintenance of a long-lived resistance polymorphism in the wild plant, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Learn more about Joy Bergelson's Lab and Aashish Jha’s Genetic Heritage Group.

Principal Investigators