The Plant Diseases and Fungal Biology Lab

Research field:

  • Biology of plant pathogenic fungi and their interactions with plants,
  • Isolation of disease resistance genes from wild plant species and their use in development of disease resistant wheat.

Specific Research interests/topics:

  • Biology of plant pathogenic fungi
  • Development of chemical-free method to control plant diseases
  • Wheat improvement through genetic transformation and gene editing

Research methods:

  • Transformation and CRISPR-assisted manipulation of fungi
  • Wheat transformation and gene editing
  • Working with pathogenic fungi: Screening for disease resistance, testing fungicidal activity of synthetic compounds and biological agents, working with various types of pathogens.

Main projects in the lab include:
Biology of plant pathogenic fungi. We mainly work with Botrytis cinerea, a notorious generalist plant pathogen that causes massive crop losses prior and post harvest in leading agricultural crops such as grapes, vegetables, and cannabis (Bi et al., 2022). The aim of our study is to obtain deep knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that regulate Botrytis – plant interactions and use it for development of alternative disease control methods that will help reducing the use of synthetic fungicides. Two main projects are currently underway: (i). Characterization of B. cinerea cell death and plant immunity-inducing effectors, and their use to boost plant resistance (Bi et al., 2021). (ii). Mechanisms of heat adaptation and use of advanced temperature treatments in disease management.

Development of disease-resistant transgenic wheat. Plant diseases account to major yield losses. A safe way to prevent diseases is through introduction of disease resistance genes to crops. We use advanced genomic methods to isolate new disease resistance genes from a collection of wheat wild relatives. We use genetic transformation and gene editing to introduce the new traits to wheat. Current projects aim at isolation of genes that confer resistance against stem, leaf, and stripe rusts, the three most widespread and economically important wheat diseases. We use genomic resources and a diversity panel the wheat wild relative Aegilops longissima to isolate the new genes (Avni et al., 2022; Yu et al., 2022a,b). Transgenic and gene edited wheat lines are produced by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation at the wheat transformation and genome editing center that is located at Tel Aviv University Institute for Cereal Crops Research.

Potential industries:

  • AgTech
  • FoodTech

Contact Details:  

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