Lacking specialized immune cells and adaptive immunity, plants have developed the sophisticated innate immune system to defend pathogen attacks. Our primary research interest is to elucidate the activation and signaling mechanisms of host immunity upon pathogen infections with an integrated genetic, biochemical and cellular approach using Arabidopsis as a tractable model system. Plant immunity is inextricably linked with plant development and environmental stresses. We are trying to understand the signaling crosstalk that orchestrates plant responses to different extrinsic and intrinsic signals. We are also interested in translating knowledge from studying model plants to improve crop plants for stress resilience.
Plants have evolved two tiers of immune receptors to detect infections: cell surface-resident pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) sensing microbial signatures and intracellular nucleotide-binding domain leucine-rich repeat (NLR) proteins recognizing pathogen effectors. Defects or over-activation of immune receptors have been linked to detrimental effects often leading to cell death. We have carried out a series of sensitive and high-throughput genetic screens with Arabidopsis luciferase reporter lines or RNAi-based approach for components regulating plant immunity and cell death. The luciferase-based screens have identified many Arabidopsis Genes Governing Immune gene Expression (AGGIE) with novel functions in transcriptional, post-transcriptional, translational and post-translational regulations of plant immune-related genes. The virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS)-based screens for suppressors of PRR co-receptor BAK1/SERK4-mediated cell death have identified BAK1-to-Life (BTL) genes with functions in protein glycosylation, endoplasmic reticulum quality control and ion channels in plant cell death regulation.