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The objective of my project is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which the rice protein ZBED confers resistance to both biotic and abiotic stresses. ZBED is a zinc finger-DNA binding protein that when is overexpressed in rice the plants become more resistant to drought and the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. Most biological disease resistance pathways identified so far are not efficient under abiotic stress due to negative cross-talks between biotic and abiotic resistance.Thus, I am using a multidisciplinary approach, which includes the use of molecular tools, cytology and bioinformatics to elucidate the mechanism by which ZBED controls these two different pathways. Our preliminary results show that ZBED is translocated to the nucleus when expressed in the heterologous system Nicotiana benthamiana. Additionally, we were able to demonstrate that ZBED binds DNA and its DNA-binding ability depends on its zinc-fingers. ZBED not only binds DNA in N. benthamiana, but it also causes the induction of PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI) and cell death (Hypersensitive Response). Taking these preliminary results together, show that ZBED plays an important role in plant immunity. The long term goal of this project is the identification of novel sources of abiotic and biotic stress resistance in monocots, using rice as a model system, aiming to diminish the excessive amount of crops that are lost every year to drought and pathogens. These novel sources of resistance will allow us to reduce the use of fungicides, mitigating the environmental impact while ensuring food security to the consumer and improving crop productivity to farmers.
I am originally from Colombia, where I studied biology. Then I moved to the USA to do a PhD in Plant Pathology at Cornell University. Throughout my career as a scientist, I have carried out research at a number of international centers in Colombia, USA, Spain and France. I have carried out cutting-edge research in plant-microbe interactions, studying a wide range of pathosystems, including oomycetes (Phytophthora infestans-Solanum lycopersicum and S. tuberosum), bacteria (Xanthomonas spp-cassava, pepper and rice; Ralstonia solanacearum-S.commersonii and S. tuberosum), and fungi (Magnaporthe oryzae-Oryza sativa). The results of my work have contributed to a better understanding of how pathogens manipulate the interaction with their hosts, enabling us to propose novel methods for disease control. Among these methods are inhibitors of quorum sensing, the use of defense inducers such as analogs of salicylic acid and the characterization of various candidate genes to be included in plant breeding programs. Additionally, I have developed a luminescent R. solanacearum that is currently used as a high-throughput screening tool in potato germplasm aiding in plant breeding. Resistance to M. oryzae and abiotic tolerance are two of the main concerns for rice growing farmers since they represent real threats for rice production. AgreenSkills Fellowship allowed me the opportunity to work towards the understanding of disease resistance and drought stress in rice-M.oryzae interactions.
Zuluaga P., Szurek B, Koebnik R, Kroj T, Morel J-B., 2017. Effector Mimics and Integrated Decoys, the Never-Ending Arms Race between Rice and Xanthomonas oryzae. Front. Plant Sci. 8:431. Doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00431.
Puigvert M, Guarischi-Sousa R, Zuluaga P, Coll NS, Macho AP, Setubal JC and Valls M., 2017. Transcriptomes of Ralstonia solanacearum during Root Colonization of Solanum commersonii. Front. Plant Sci. 8:370. Doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00370.
Zuluaga, A.P., Vega-Arreguín, J.C., Fei, Z., Fry, W.E. and Rose, J.K.C., 2016. Transcriptional dynamics of Phytophthora infestans, during sequential stages of hemibiotrophic infection in tomato. Mol Plant Pathol. Doi: 10.1111/mpp.12263.
Zuluaga, A.P., Vega-Arreguín, J.C., Fei, Z., Fry, W.E. and Rose, J.K.C., 2016. Analysis of the tomato transcriptome during a compatible interaction with the hemibiotrophic pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Mol Plant Pathol. Doi: 10.1111/mpp.12260.
Zuluaga, A.P., Sole, M., Lu, H., Gongora-Castillo, E., Vaillancourt, B., Coll, N., Buell, C. R. and Valls, M., 2015. Transcriptome responses to Ralstonia solanacearum infection in the roots of the wild potato Solanum commersonii. BMC Genomics 16: 246. Doi: 10.1186/ s12864-015-1460-1.