How do plant roots balance development and immune pathways?

Plants are surrounded by microbial and insect pathogens from which they must defend themselves. Defense activation is energetically costly and can reduce plant growth and development. The balance between growth and defense must be carefully modulated for optimal plant production.

This is particularly true in plant roots, which are vital for plant health. To obtain water and nutrients, roots differentially grow through soil and develop new branches. While growing and developing, roots must perceive soil microbes, decide which are harmful, and translate these signals into robust immune responses at the cellular, tissue, and whole root scales. The goal of the Iyer-Pascuzzi lab is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that link plant root development and immune pathways.

Tomatoes are regularly threatened by soilborne pathogens and are part of the economically important Solanaceae plant family. Using the interaction between tomato roots and the soilborne bacterial pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum as a model, the Iyer-Pascuzzi lab address the following questions:

How do plant roots switch from development to defense pathways?

How do the links between development and defense differ across scales from root cell-types to entire root systems?

How do soil microbes interfere with root growth and developmental pathways?

We work at multiple scales – from the cell-type to the whole organism, and incorporate molecular biology, genetics, genomics, plant pathology, and phenotyping tools to address our questions.

We are always looking for talented, excited graduate students or post-docs interested in roots and plant diseases!