Peter Solomon

Group membership

Peter completed his undergraduate degree and subsequent PhD studies at The University of Queensland investigating the role of molybdenum containing enzymes in the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus. He then undertook a postdoctoral position at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Denmark investigating the nutritional basis of the tomato-Cladosporium fulvum interaction. In 2000, he moved to the Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens located at Murdoch University in Perth to further investigate fungal-plant interactions using the Parastagonospora nodorum-wheat interaction. In 2008, Peter accepted a Lab Leader position in the Research School of Biology at The Australian National University where his research group is focused on wheat biosecurity. Recently, Peter was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to expand his group's interest to cover the devastating wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici.

Research interests

Fungal diseases of wheat threaten global food security

Fungal diseases are the cause of millions of tonnes in yield losses each on farms around the world. This is serious issue not only in terms of financial losses, but also when considering food security and stability. As an example, the table below outlines losses on Australian wheat farms to disease. The top four diseases in terms of losses are caused by fungal pathogens (based on 2008 prices). Using today's wheat prices, the losses from fungi in Australia exceed $1 billion dollars, and that is using effective control measures; without these losses would exceed $5 billion dollars. Thus there are many good reasons to better understand how these pathogens cause disease!

Wheat disease $/ha AUD Total losses
($M AUD)
yellow spot 17.82 212
stripe rust 10.62 127
septoria nodorum blotch 9.07 108
crown rot 6.63 79
Pratylenchus neglectus 6.13 73
Total losses from others 26.37 314
Total present loss 76.94 913

How do these pathogens cause disease?

Our laboratory focuses on two significant pathogens of wheat.Stagonospora nodorum is a fungus that causes leaf and glume blotch disease on wheat (Septoria nodorum blotch). This disease causes greater than $100 million dollars in yield losses per annum in Australia alone and has been recently ranked as the third most important disease of wheat in this country. Traditional breeding methods for disease controls have only been partially successful at best and new and innovative anti-fungal strategies are required to prevent disease and secure Australian and global wheat supplies in the future.

Not only is S. nodorum a threat to global food security, its also extremely interesting and versatile to work with! S. nodorum can be cultured in the lab and is amenable to many common genetic techniques such as targeted gene disruption and gene overexpression. The genome sequence has been completed and extensive proteomics and metabolomics resources have been developed making S. nodorum a perfect model pathogen to better understand plant-pathogen interactions.

Electron microscope images of Septoria nodorum blotch fungus invading a wheat leaf. Photo: Kasia Clarke, ACNFP

The second wheat pathogen we study in the lab is Zymoseptoria triticiZ. tritici is the most important pathogen of wheat in Europe, the region that produces one-fifth of the world's wheat supply.Zymospetoria tritici is a fungal pathogen of wheat related to Stagonospora nodorum, and is the causal agent of the most important wheat disease in Europe (Septoria tritici blotch). This single disease alone is responsible for greater than $1 billion dollars in losses each year. The disease is particularly problematic in that natural sources of resistance are difficult to source and the pathogen is very adept at rapidly evolving fungicide resistance.

Interestingly, the disease isn't currently a major problem in Australia. There are many postulated reasons for this including the possibility that European isolates of the pathogen have evolved to be more aggressive. Fortunately, Australian quarantine has prevented these isolates from entering Australia however the pathogen remains a serious biosecurity risk. Our lab is studying all aspects of the above diseases with a focus implementing this improved understanding to facilitate new and novel disease management strategies.

Fungi synthesize an amazing range of novel and active compounds!

Another research area in the lab is focused on understanding fungal secondary metabolism and identifying novel metabolites. Fungal secondary metabolites are among the biologically active compounds on the earth and are part of our daily lives, for good or bad ... . For example, its almost impossible to count how many lives penicillin has saved. More recently, statin-based drugs have an enormous impact of many peoples lives in terms of cholesterol control. However, not all these compounds are beneficial. Many fungi produce compounds that are lethal. Aflatoxin is the worst carcinogenic toxin produced in nature whilst a variety of plant pathogenic fungi produce mycotoxins that render the plant useless to eat (for humans or animals). And who can forget death cap mushrooms!

Recent grants

  • Solomon, P.S. (2012) Understanding the production risks from necrotrophic fungi. Grains Research and Development Corporation. $180,000
  • Solomon, P.S. (2012) Functional characterisation of the necrotrophic effector proteins Tox1 and Tox3 from the wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum. ARC Discovery $350,000.
  • Solomon, P.S. (2011) The identification of Mycosphaerella graminicola effectors that promote pathogenicity on wheat. ARC Future Fellowship $803,186.
  • Solomon, P.S. (2011) Australian Necrotrophic Fungal Programme. Grains Research and Development Corporation. $500,000 AUD.
  • Solomon, P.S., Bringans, S. & Lipscombe, R.J. (2011) The development of mass spectrometry techniques for mapping post-translational modification in the wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum. ARC Linkage $90,666.
  • Solomon, P.S, Rathjen, J.P., Hardham, A., Jones, D. & Mathesius, U. (2010) An AKTA Avant protein purification system to unravel plant disease. ANU Major Equipment Committee Grant $80,000 AUD.
  • AR Hardham, A.R., Kirk, K., Broer, S., Von Caemmerer, S., Mathesius, U., Solomon, P.S., Masle, J., Saliba, K.J., Pogson, B.J., Parish, C.R., Atkin, O.K., Mahalingam, S., Ball, M.C., Tremethick, D.J., Rolph, M., Djordjevic, M.A., Hill, C.E. (2010) Multiphoton confocal microscope. ARC LIEF $600,000 AUD.
  • Oliver, R.P. & Solomon, P.S. (2009) Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens: Fungal Pathogenicity; Continuation. Grains Research and Development Corporation $473,754 AUD.
  • Solomon, P.S., Oliver, R.P. and Lipscombe, R.J. (2008) Investigating a new paradigm for plant-pathogen interactions; Identification of host-selective toxin proteins in the wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum. ARC Discovery $235,000 AUD.
  • Solomon, P.S., Oliver, R.P. and Lipscombe, R.J. (2008) Proteome mapping of the model fungal plant pathogen Stagonospora nodorum using LC-LC-MS/MS. ARC Linkage $78,000 AUD.

Selected publications

  • Thynne E, McDonald MC, Solomon PS (2015) Phytopathogen emergence in the genomics era. Trends in Plant Science 20, 246-255.


    Pascovici D, Song X, Solomon PS, Winterberg B, Mirzaei M, Goodchild A, Stanley WC, Liu J, Molloy MP (2015) Combining protein ratio p -values as a pragmatic approach to the analysis of multirun iTRAQ experiments. Journal of Proteome Research 14, 738-746.


    Muria-Gonzalez MJ, Chooi YH, Breen S, Solomon PS (2015) The past, present and future of secondary metabolite research in the Dothideomycetes. Molecular Plant Pathology 16, 92-107.


    McDonald MC, McDonald BA, Solomon PS (2015) Recent advances in the Zymoseptoria tritici–wheat interaction: Insights from pathogenomics. Frontiers in Plant Science 6.


    Eaton CJ, Dupont PY, Solomon P, Clayton W, Scott B, Cox MP (2015) A core gene set describes the molecular basis of Mutualism and Antagonism in Epichloë spp. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 28, 218-231.


    Chooi YH, Krill C, Barrow RA, Chen S, Trengove R, Oliver RP, Solomon PS (2015) An In planta-expressed polyketide synthase produces (R)-mellein in the wheat pathogen Parastagonospora nodorum. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81, 177-186.


    Winterberg B, Du Fall LA, Song X, Pascovici D, Care N, Molloy M, Ohms S, Solomon PS (2014) The necrotrophic effector protein SnTox3 re-programs metabolism and elicits a strong defence response in susceptible wheat leaves. BMC Plant Biology 14.


    Robinson AL, Boss PK, Solomon PS, Trengove RD, Heymann H, Ebeler SE (2014) Origins of grape and wine aroma. Part 1. Chemical components and viticultural impacts. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture 65, 1-24.


    Robinson AL, Boss PK, Solomon PS, Refidaff C, Heymann H, Ebeler SE (2014) Origins of grape and wine aroma. Part 2. Chemical and sensory analysis. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture 65, 25-42.


    Chooi YH, Solomon PS (2014) A chemical ecogenomics approach to understand the roles of secondary metabolites in fungal cereal pathogens. Frontiers in Microbiology 5.


    Chooi YH, Muria-Gonzalez MJ, Solomon PS (2014) A genome-wide survey of the secondary metabolite biosynthesis genes in the wheat pathogen Parastagonospora nodorum. Mycology 5, 192-206.


    Pascovici D, Gardiner DM, Song X, Breen E, Solomon PS, Keighley T, Molloy MP (2013) Coverage and consistency: Bioinformatics aspects of the analysis of multirun iTRAQ experiments with wheat leaves. Journal of Proteome Research 12, 4870-4881.


    Mead O, Thynne E, Winterberg B, Solomon PS (2013) Characterising the role of GABA and its metabolism in the wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum. PLoS ONE 8.


    Gummer JPA, Trengove RD, Oliver RP, Solomon PS (2013) Dissecting the role of G-protein signalling in primary metabolism in the wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum. Microbiology (United Kingdom) 159, 1972-1985.


    Du Fall LA, Solomon PS (2013) The necrotrophic effector SnToxA induces the synthesis of a novel phytoalexin in wheat. New Phytologist 200, 185-200.


    Robinson AL, Adams DO, Boss PK, Heymann H, Solomon PS, Trengove RD (2012) Influence of geographic origin on the sensory characteristics and wine composition of Vitis vinifera cv. Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Australia. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture 63, 467-476.


    Oliver RP, Friesen TL, Faris JD, Solomon PS (2012) Stagonospora nodorum: From pathology to genomics and host resistance. Annual Review of Phytopathology 50, 23-43.


    Ipcho SVS, Hane JK, Antoni EA, Ahren D, Henrissat B, Friesen TL, Solomon PS, Oliver RP (2012) Transcriptome analysis of Stagonospora nodorum: Gene models, effectors, metabolism and pantothenate dispensability. Molecular Plant Pathology 13, 531-545.


    Gummer JPA, Trengove RD, Oliver RP, Solomon PS (2012) A comparative analysis of the heterotrimeric G-protein Gα, Gβ and Gγ subunits in the wheat pathogen Stagonospora nodorum. BMC Microbiology 12.


    Gardiner DM, McDonald MC, Covarelli L, Solomon PS, Rusu AG, Marshall M, Kazan K, Chakraborty S, McDonald BA, Manners JM (2012) Comparative Pathogenomics Reveals Horizontally Acquired Novel Virulence Genes in Fungi Infecting Cereal Hosts. PLoS Pathogens 8.


All publications

  • PhB ASC supervision
  • Co-convenor of BIOL3106 and 3107, Lecturer in BIOL3177.
  • PhD and Honours students should note that as many of the projects in the Solomon lab are focussed solving problems within the Australian wheat industries, substantial scholarship top-ups are possible through the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
  • Our lab has multiple research projects available, from everything including determining the relevance of fungal secondary metabolite compounds on plant disease to isolating new compounds as novel bioactives.