College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
Goss’s Wilt, a bacterial disease that causes leaf blight and vascular wilt in corn, is an economically important disease that can result in up to 30% yield loss in susceptible hybrids in Minnesota. It is caused by a Gram positive bacterium, Clavibacter nebraskensis (Cn), which infects maize either through natural openings (hydathodes) or wounds caused by hail or other weather events. It was first characterized in Nebraska in 1969, but has reemerged as a major disease in the Corn Belt since 2006. It is theorized that this reemergence could be due to various factors, including increased no-till farming practices that provide reservoirs of infected plant biomass, lack of genetically resistant maize hybrids, and potential changes in the pathogen population. Its reemergence has generated much interest in this pathogen, and while many strains of Cn from diverse geographic locations have been collected and studied, little is known about the molecular pathogenesis of this microbe in planta. Interestingly, although some strains of Cn contain one large plasmid, Cn does not encode virulence factors via plasmids, unlike many other major bacterial pathogens, including close relatives of Cn. This makes it a novel study system.
These researchers aim to elucidate molecular virulence mechanisms of Cn through three main objectives:
- Understanding genetic strain x host interactions via a select-and-resequence approach
- Examining expression patterns of the pathogen and the host during disease progression using a dual-transcriptomics study
- Examining biochemical interactions of the pathogen and the host during disease progression through metabolomics