The Xiao Lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of plant antifungal defense exerted at the host-pathogen interface. Plants have evolved multi-layered resistance mechanisms to fight against pathogens. Research in the Xiao group is focused on the molecular basis of the broad-spectrum resistance activated by the Arabidopsis protein RPW8 against powdery mildew fungal pathogens. The expression of the RPW8 protein is induced upon infection and RPW8 is specifically targeted to the extra-haustorial membrane—the enigmatic host-pathogen interface, whereby RPW8 appears to fortify physical and chemical barriers to constrain fungal development. Ongoing work in the lab aims to understand the RPW8 targeting mechanism and the biogenesis of the extra-haustorial membrane, and to engineer novel, host-pathogen-interface–focused disease resistance against haustorium-forming pathogens in plants.
The two likely outcomes when the plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) is challenged by the pathogen (Golovinomyces cichoracearum): (1) susceptible with snow-like powdery mildew if lacking RPW8 and (2) resistant if expressing RPW8, which is specifically targeted to the host-pathogen interface to constrain the fungal feeding structure, the haustorium.