Our research focuses on two aspects of bacterial-plant interactions:
1. Genetic determinants causing disease or disease resistance.
We use as a model the soil-borne, wide-host range pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum, which causes the devastating bacterial wilt disease. We study the transcriptional regulation pathogen virulence genes and plant defence genes. We are especially interested in defining when and where the bacterial main pathogenicity determinant - the type III secretion system- is expressed. We are also determining the plant genes that are induced upon infection and confer resistance to the pathogen in potato. In addition, we are characterising a family of R. solanacearum effectors of unknown function (the AWR proteins) to unravel their contribution to disease.
2. Executioners of programmed cell death (PCD).
We have shown that metacaspases, distant relatives of caspases, are main regulators of PCD in plants. We are deciphering the composition of protein complexes that regulate execution of the hypersensitive response (HR) cell death and how these protein hubs dynamically respond to pathogen recognition. We are also investigating the role of AtMC3 at the cross-road between HR cell death and development. Finally, we are studying the relation between autophagy and AtMC1-regulated cell death during HR and senescence.