Research lines

Genetic basis of adaptive evolution

Adaptation is a dynamic evolutionary process increasing competitiveness and survival of an organism in a given environment. Like many fungal pathogens, Fusarium oxysporum can adapt to a wide range of environmental niches, such as the soil or living plant and animal hosts. We use a combination of experimental evolution and reverse genetics to follow the dynamics of adaptation in real time and to identify the underlying molecular mechanisms, with a particular focus on the role of transposable elements.

pH control of signaling and pathogenicity

pH regulates fundamental processes in all kingdoms of life. During infection, fungal pathogens often induce a marked alkalinization of the host pH, which leads to an increase in virulence. We previously found that changes in intracellular pH (pHi) lead to rapid reprogramming of conserved signaling modules such as mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). To elucidate the underlying molecular events, we are studying key components of pHi homeostasis, including the essential plasma membrane ATPase Pma1 or the sphingolipid signaling pathway. Understanding pHi-MAPK regulation could reveal new ways to target hyphal growth, development and infection of fungal pathogens.

Metal ion homeostasis during host infection

Metal ions, such as iron, copper or zinc, are essential inorganic elements for life. All organisms have evolved exquisite regulatory mechanisms to rapidly and specifically respond to metal deficiency or excess. In fungal pathogens, this process is crucial for virulence. We are studying the battle for metal ion acquisition, which takes place during the interaction of Fusarium oxysporum with plant and animal hosts. Our research aims to identify the key regulatory components of metal ion homeostasis, such as sensors and transcription factors, and to unravel their role in fungal pathogenicity.

Effector-mediated multi-host compatibility

Vascular wilt pathogens colonize a wide array of plants. In the Fusarium oxysporum species complex, interaction of an individual fungal isolate with a given host plant leads either to vascular wilt disease or to a non-wilting endophytic lifestyle. While host-specific virulence effectors are known to be encoded by unique, lineage specific genomic regions, the genetic basis of multi-host compatibility remains largely unexplored. We have identified a set of Early Root Compatibility (ERC) effectors that are encoded by conserved core genomic regions and secreted during early stages of root colonization. Our goal is to elucidate the molecular function of these ERCs and to understand how they interfere with the host immune system.

Interactions with the microbiome

The interaction with other microbes crucially affects the ability of root pathogens to survive in the soil and to colonize plants. Some of these microorganisms are conducive to disease while others protect plants from pathogen infection. We employ a combination of sequencing approaches and bioassays to taxonomically define the components of the tomato rhizo- and endosphere microbiome and to elucidate their interactions. An important aim is to identify antagonists that interfere with F. oxysporum infection. Understanding how microbiomes shape pathogen-plant interactions will contribute to the development of new approaches to control soilborne diseases in crop plants.

Where to find us:

Department of Genetics
Campus Rabanales
Edificio Gregor Mendel, 1st floor
14014 Córdoba
Spain

Phone: (+34) 957218981

Email: ge2dipia@uco.es