Interdisciplinary Life Science - PULSe Great research is a matter of choice

Gurmukh (Guri) Johal

Gurmukh (Guri) Johal Profile Picture

Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology
Ph.D., Simon Fraser University, B.C., Canada - Plant Pathology

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Plant Biology

Current Research Interests:

How is it that plants are constantly exposed to potential pathogens but seldom succumb to disease? My group is addressing this question in maize by determining the nature of resistance mechanisms that are called into action when confronted with fungal pathogens and how these mechanisms are breached or avoided during interactions that result in disease. Using a combination of genetic, genomic, molecular and cell biological approaches, we are presently focusing our efforts on two contrasting maize diseases. One of these diseases, characterized by severe leaf blight and ear rot symptoms, is caused by race 1 of Cochliobolus carbonum. A key perpetrator of this disease is HC-toxin, a cyclic tetrapeptide, which the fungus elaborates to cause disease. Answering how HC-toxin coaxes maize to change from a resistant to a susceptible form is the major thrust of our research.

The second disease is Fusarium ear mold, infamous not only for the damage it does to ears but also for Fumonisin, a mycotoxin responsible for many maladies in humans and the live stock. Virtually nothing is known about how this disease develops, what part of the host allows fungal ingress in developing kernels, and how resistant maize cultivars succeed in fending off the pathogen.

In addition to bona fide diseases, we also utilize a collection of maize mutations - called disease lesion mimics - to elucidate genes and pathways that may be of relevance to maize's interaction with pathogens. Of more than 50 disease lesion mimics presently available in maize, genes responsible for five independent mimics have been recently cloned and characterized in our group. While proving invaluable in enhancing our knowledge of how plants cope with stresses, lesion mimics are also providing excellent tools for dissecting cell death mechanisms and pathways in plants.

Selected Publications:

Multani DS, Briggs SP, Chamberlin MA, Blakeslee JJ, Murphy AS, Johal GS. 2003. Loss of an MDR transporter in compact stalks of maize br2 and sorghum dw3 mutants. Science 302: 81-4.

Gray, J., D. Janick-Buckner, B. Buckner, P. Close, and G.S. Johal. 2002. Light-dependent death of maize lls1 cells is mediated by functional chloroplasts. Plant Physiology. 130: 1894-907.

Nadimpalli R., N. Yalpani, G.S. Johal, and C.R. Simmons. 2000. Prohibitins, stomatins, and plant disease response genes compose a protein superfamily that controls cell proliferation, ion channel regulation and death. J. Biological Chemistry 275: 29579-29586.

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