Fusarium wilt, caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, is a devastating disease of many economically important crop plants, such as banana/plantain, cotton, tomato, capsicum, beans, peas, chickpeas and melons. Fusarium wilt of banana destroyed the banana industry in the Northern Territory and recent outbreaks in Tully threaten to do the same to the $400m Queensland banana industry (http://www.abs.gov.au). Fusarium wilt is also a threat to the $1.3bn cotton and $300m tomato industries in Australia (http://www.abs.gov.au). Banana and cotton lack good sources of genetic resistance to Fusarium wilt, so there is an urgent need to better understand this important disease to enable it to be better managed in these and other crops.
There are significant gaps in our understanding of Fusarium wilt susceptibility and immunity that need to be addressed. We know the identity of several fungal effectors (virulence factors) responsible for Fusarium wilt disease in susceptible plants, but not the identity of the plant proteins they target or how they function to promote disease. We know the identity of several plant receptors that allow recognition of fungal effectors that trigger plant defences in resistant plants, but not how these effectors are recognised. We also know some of the plant components required for resistance, but lack a clear picture of the signal transduction pathways that lead from effector recognition to resistance.
The aim of this project is to understand the structural basis of plant susceptibility and immunity to Fusarium wilt disease. Please get in touch for further details.
There are numerous student projects that relate to the aims of this project. The project will involve the use of molecular biology, protein biochemistry, structural biology, synthetic biology and plant biology techniques.Top-up scholarships for both honours and PhD students have been awarded to current students in my laboratory. I will support these applications for future students.