Rathjen Group - Plant immunity

Rust pathogen on wheat




We have exciting projects offering fascinating science, wet lab and bioinformatics training, and transferable professional skills - see "Projects" heading.

Our Group works on all aspects of plant immunity, characterising the fascinating interplay between host and pathogen. We study two complementary pathosystems; infection of tomato by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, and the devastating disease wheat stripe rust which is caused by the fungus Puccinia striiformis. We seek to understand how the plant recognises the presence of invasive microbes through detection of characteristic components such as cell wall molecules, how plant receptor complexes are activated, and the signal transduction events that transform these recognition events into immunity. We have made seminal discoveries on how pathogens try to shut down plant immunity using their complements of virulence effector molecules, and in turn how the plant has evolved sophisticated molecular mechanisms to trap these effectors and activate defenses. We are leaders in the protein biochemistry of plant signal transduction and pathogen genomics. 

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Click here for a list of publications




John Rathjen

John Rathjen
I am a biochemist with interests in all areas of plant immunity studied through various pathosystems. My lab has made important...


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Selected publications


Boutrot F, Segonzac C, Chang K, Qiao H, Ecker J, Zipfel C, Rathjen J: Direct transcriptional control of the Arabidopsis immune receptor FLS2 by the ethylene-dependent transcription factors EIN3 and EIL1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2010, 107:14502-14507.

Dodds P, Rathjen J: Plant immunity: towards an integrated view of plant-pathogen interactions. Nature Reviews Genetics 2010, 11:539-548.

GIMENEZ-IBANEZ S, HANN D, NTOUKAKIS V, PETUTSCHNIG E, LIPKA V, RATHJEN J: AvrPtoB Targets the LysM Receptor Kinase CERK1 to Promote Bacterial Virulence on Plants. CURRENT BIOLOGY 2009, 19:423-429.

Hann D, Gimenez-Ibanez S, Rathjen J: Bacterial virulence effectors and their activities. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 2010, 13:388-393.

Heese A, Hann DR, Gimenez-Ibanez S, Jones AME, He K, Li J, Schroeder JI, Peck SC, Rathjen JP: The receptor-like kinase SERK3/BAK1 is a central regulator of innate immunity in plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2007, 104:12217-12222.

Mucyn TS, Clemente A, Andriotis VME, Balmuth AL, Oldroyd GED, Staskawicz BJ, Rathjen JP: The tomato NBARC-LRR protein Prf interacts with Pto kinase in vivo to regulate specific plant immunity. Plant Cell 2006, 18:2792-2806.

NTOUKAKIS V, MUCYN T, GIMENEZ-LBANEZ S, CHAPMAN H, GUTIERREZ J, BALMUTH A, JONES A, RATHJEN J: Host Inhibition of a Bacterial Virulence Effector Triggers Immunity to Infection. SCIENCE 2009, 324:784-787.

RATHJEN J, CHANG J, STASKAWICZ B, MICHELMORE R: Constitutively active Pto induces a Prf-dependent hypersensitive response in the absence of avrPto. EMBO JOURNAL 1999, 18:3232-3240.

SCOFIELD S, TOBIAS C, RATHJEN J, CHANG J, LAVELLE D, MICHELMORE R, STASKAWICZ B: Molecular basis of gene-for-gene specificity in bacterial speck disease of tomato. SCIENCE 1996, 274:2063-2065.

WU A, ANDRIOTIS V, DURRANT M, RATHJEN J: A patch of surface-exposed residues mediates negative regulation of immune signaling by tomato Pto kinase. PLANT CELL 2004, 16:2809-2821.


News & events


Researchers have a new understanding of the genetic makeup of a fungus that causes the disease Wheat Stripe Rust, one of the most destructive wheat diseases globally costing $1 billion annually.
Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions Retreat Kioloa 2017
This year’s annual MPMI retreat was a huge success down at the ANU’s Kioloa Coastal Campus.
Benjamin Schwessinger
Benjamin Schwessinger (Rathjen group, PS) has been elected to join
Benjamin Schwessinger with pots of rice
Biologists have discovered how the rice plant's immune system is triggered by disease, in a discovery that could boost crop yields and lead to more disease-resistant types of rice.



Sam Periyannan

Research background

Updated:  17 October 2019/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB