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Special Topics in Biology: Plant-Microbe Interactions

Biology And Biomedical Sciences 1772 - Spring 2021

This is a research-based laboratory course offered by Dr. Barbara Kunkel in the Biology Department. The small class size and laboratory setting of the course is intended to foster development of student-professor mentoring relationships. Time commitment (weekly): 2 hours in lab, 1 hour of discussion (1 unit, P/F). Class size: 4 students Prerequisite: Permission of Instructor Research Question. Microbial organisms play very important roles in the lives of plants and animals. For example, in nature as well as in agricultural settings, the communities of microorganisms that grow near or on plants influence the growth and overall health of these plants. These plant-associated microbial communities are highly complex, and are comprised of thousands of different species, including bacteria and fungi. However, neither the role of individual microbial species within the larger microbial community, nor how such a community is beneficial to plants, is well understood. Each year the students in Bio1771 explore a different topic related to interactions between plants and their associated microbes. During the 2020/2021 academic year our research will focus on virulence mechanisms used by the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae to promote disease in plants. Recent research in the Kunkel lab has revealed that the plant hormone auxin promotes disease development in interactions between P. syringae strain PtoDC3000 and one of its host, Arabidopsis thaliana, a weedy plant in the mustard family. Auxin acts through at least two different mechanisms to promote disease, including 1) suppressing defense responses in the plant and 2) regulating gene expression in the pathogen. We will investigate this second activity by screening for and characterizing PtoDC3000 mutants that do not properly respond to auxin. Students will spend two hours per week in lab carrying out bacteriological and molecular biology experiments. Over the course of the semester, students will be exposed to a variety of
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Special Topics in Biology: Plant-Microbe Interactions
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