I conducted my PhD studies in a structural biology laboratory at the University of Queensland (UQ) (2012-2015), where I combined protein biochemistry and structural biology to reveal protein structures of key proteins in plant and animal innate immunity. These proteins included proteins acting as signalling activators in plant effector triggered immunity, and in human innate immunity and neuronal disease. My studies have provided structural insights into how immune receptors activate signalling.
I then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at CSIRO Agriculture & Food (A&F) (2015-2018), where I further studied plant disease immunity in complex plant systems. I combined my expertise in protein biochemistry and structural biology, and developed pipelines to investigate structural-hypothesis in plant-pathogen interactions and plant immune signalling. I have further integrated recent progress in plant and animal immunity to engineer chimeric proteins, revealing fundamental immune signalling mechanisms conserved across different biological contexts.
I am currently at the Research School of Biology (RSB) at the Australian National University (ANU). I have been using my expertise in structural biology and plant-fungal biology to investigate fungal disease in living plants. I recently recieved a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from Australian Research Council (ARC) to use synthetic biology to engineer novel disease resistance in cereal crops.
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=QhzkKa0AAAAJ&hl=en
- Chen, J, Zhang, X, Rathjen, J et al. 2022, 'Direct recognition of pathogen effectors by plant NLR immune receptors and downstream signalling', Essays in Biochemistry, vol. 66, no. 5, pp. 471-483.
- Duxbury, Z, Wang, S, MacKenzie, C et al. 2020, 'Induced proximity of a TIR signaling domain on a plant-mammalian NLR chimera activates defense in plants', PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 117, no. 31, pp. 18832-18839.
- Zhang, X, Burdett, H, Rank, M et al. 2019, 'Structural and Biochemical Analysis of Plant TIR NAD plus Cleavage Activity [Meeting Abstract]', IS-MPMI XVIII Congress, American Phytopathological Society, United States, pp. 215-215.
- Zhang, X, Chen, J, Burdett, H et al. 2019, 'Self-association and an intact NADase active site are required for plant TIR domain immune signaling [Meeting Abstract]', IS-MPMI XVIII Congress, American Phytopathological Society, United States, pp. 88-88.
- Upadhyaya, N, Ortiz, D, Li, F et al. 2019, 'Using Virulence Mutants to Identify Avr Genes in the wheat stem rust fungus, Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici. [Meeting Abstract]', 18th Congress of International-Society-for-Molecular-Plant-Microbe-Interactions (IS-MPMI), 2019, The American Phytopathological Society (APS), United States, pp. 232-232.
- Horsefield, S, Burdett, H, Zhang, X et al. 2019, 'NAD+ cleavage activity by animal and plant TIR domains in cell death pathways', Science, vol. 365, no. 6455, pp. 793-799.
- Zhang, X, Farah, N, Rolston, L et al. 2018, 'Crystal structure of the Melampsora lini effector AvrP reveals insights into a possible nuclear function and recognition by the flax disease resistance protein P', Molecular Plant Pathology, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 1196-1209.
- Chen, J, Upadhyaya, N, Ortiz, D et al. 2018, 'Loss of AvrSr50 by somatic exchange in stem rust leads to virulence for Sr50 resistance in wheat', Plant Science, vol. 358, no. Issue 6370, pp. 1607-1610.
- Zhang, X, Nguyen , N, Breen, S et al. 2017, 'Production of small cysteine-rich effector proteins in Escherichia coli for structural and functional studies', Molecular Plant Pathology, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 141-151.
- Zhang, X, Bernoux, M, Bentham, A et al. 2017, 'Multiple functional self-association interfaces in plant TIR domains', PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 114, no. 10, pp. E2046-E2052.
- Zhang, X, Dodds, P & Bernoux, M 2017, 'What Do We Know About NOD-Like Receptors in Plant Immunity?', Annual Review of Phytopathology, vol. 55, pp. 205-229.
- Bernoux, M, Burdett, H, Williams, S et al. 2016, 'Comparative analysis of the flax immune receptors L6 and L7 suggests an equilibrium-based switch activation model', The Plant Cell, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 146-159.