Shunyuan Xiao


Xiao Group



Call: (240) 314-6480


  • Ph.D., Plant Genetics, Huazhong Agricultural University, China, 1992
  • M.S., Plant Genetics, Huazhong Agricultural University, China, 1987
  • B.A., Plant Genetics, Huazhong Agricultural University, China, 1984


Dr. Xiao’s research interests center on understanding and engineering plant resistance against fungal pathogens. Globally, up to 15% of crop losses are due to pathogens, including fungi. The Xiao lab has developed model systems to study powdery mildew on diverse plant species including barley, grape, strawberry, tomato, and Arabidopsis. These pathosystems have given the Xiao laboratory the ability to conduct molecular, genetic, and evolutionary studies of plant-powdery mildew interactions in order to develop mildew-resistant crop plants.


One research focus of the Xiao lab is to understand how the plant protein RPW8 provides broad-spectrum resistance against powdery mildew in Arabidopsis. RPW8 is an atypical resistance protein that is specifically targeted to the host-pathogen interface — the extra-haustorial membrane where RPW8 activates defenses to constrain the fungal feeding structure, i.e. the haustorium. Because RPW8 is the first protein specifically localized the enigmatic extra-haustorial membrane, the lab is also using RPW8 as a probe to investigate the origin and biogenesis of the extra-haustorial membrane and the molecular warfare at the planthaustorium interface.

A second focus in the Xiao lab is to unravel hidden layers of plant defense mechanisms including those responsible for non-host resistance through novel and more sensitive forward genetic screens and/or targeted mutagenesis of candidate genes using the CRISPR technology. 

The third area of research interest in the Xiao lab is to understand how powdery mildew fungi adapt to their host and cause diseases. Comparative genomic/transcriptomic analyses coupled with host cell expression-based molecular genetic studies are being used to identify pathogenicity factors (including effectors) of powdery mildew fungi that play essential roles in suppressing host immunity and /or deriving nutrient from host cells. 

Lastly, the Xiao lab is interested in applying the new knowledge and information from basic research to engineer plant resistance to biotic (fungal) and abiotic (drought) stresses. These translational research projects include: (1) Engineering novel antifungal resistance in plants by using RPW8 as a delivery vehicle to target antimicrobial peptides to the host-pathogen interface, (2) Enhancing plant immunity by manipulating host immune signaling and/or targeting key pathogenicity factors of fungal pathogens, and (3) Engineering drought tolerance by altering protein expression in guard cells to induce stomatal closure thereby reducing water evaporation.

Current Research in the Xiao Lab is supported by the National Science Foundation (IOS-1457033) 

Leaf abaxial immunity to powdery mildew in Arabidopsis is conferred by multiple defense mechanisms.
Plant lysin motif extracellular proteins are required for arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis.
Editorial: Improving crop health: Understanding the interaction mechanisms between crops and their pathogens.
Wheat Pore-forming toxin-like protein confers broad-spectrum resistance to fungal pathogens in Arabidopsis.
Integrated miRNA-mRNA analysis reveals candidate miRNA family regulating arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis of Poncirus trifoliata.
Construction of a genome-wide genetic linkage map and identification of quantitative trait loci for powdery mildew resistance in Gerbera daisy.
Genetic approaches to dissect plant nonhost resistance mechanisms.
Golovinomyces cichoracearum effector-associated nuclear-localisation of RPW8.2 amplifies its expression to boost immunity in Arabidopsis.
MYB308-mediated transcriptional activation of plasma membrane H + -ATPase 6 promotes iron uptake in citrus.
Genome Sequence Resource for Erysiphe necator NAFU1, a Grapevine Powdery Mildew Isolate Identified in Shaanxi Province of China.
An Easy and Flexible Inoculation Method for Accurately Assessing Powdery Mildew-Infection Phenotypes of Arabidopsis and Other Plants.
AtSTP8, an endoplasmic reticulum-localised monosaccharide transporter from Arabidopsis, is recruited to the extrahaustorial membrane during powdery mildew infection.
First Report of Xanthomonas fragariae strain YL19 causing crown infection pockets in strawberry in Liaoning Province, China.
Overexpression of two CDPKs from wild Chinese grapevine enhances powdery mildew resistance in Vitis vinifera and Arabidopsis.
Sequencing and analysis of gerbera daisy leaf transcriptomes reveal disease resistance and susceptibility genes differentially expressed and associated with powdery mildew resistance.
ANNEXIN 8 negatively regulates RPW8.1-mediated cell death and disease resistance in Arabidopsis.
CRISPR/Cas9-mediated mutagenesis of VvMLO3 results in enhanced resistance to powdery mildew in grapevine (Vitis vinifera).
RPW8.1 enhances the ethylene-signaling pathway to feedback-attenuate its mediated cell death and disease resistance in Arabidopsis.
In Silico Identification of the Full Complement of Subtilase-Encoding Genes and Characterization of the Role of TaSBT1.7 in Resistance Against Stripe Rust in Wheat.
A High-Quality Genome Resource of Botrytis fragariae, a New and Rapidly Spreading Fungal Pathogen Causing Strawberry Gray Mold in the United States.