Nicholas J. Talbot
Professor Talbot graduated in Microbiology from the University of Wales, Swansea and received his PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of East Anglia. After a period of postdoctoral research at Purdue University in the USA, he moved to the University of Exeter becoming Professor of Molecular Genetics in 1999 and Head of the School of Biosciences in 2005. His research is focused on the biology of plant diseases and, in particular, determining how fungi cause some of the most significant crop diseases. He utilizes a range of cell biology, genetics and genomics approaches in his research on rice blast disease, which has been supported by the BBSRC continuously since 1994 and also received funding from the EU, the Wellcome Trust, The Leverhulme Trust, DEFRA, and the agricultural biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. He has received research fellowships from EMBO and the Nuffield Foundation. He has won the Berkeley Award from the British Mycological Society (1999), the Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medal for outstanding original research in cell biology in 2000, and was the Karling Award Lecturer of the Mycological Society of America in 2008. Professor Talbot was a member of the BBSRC Plant and Microbial Sciences Research Committee (2003-08), the Bioinformatics and Biological Resources Committee (2007-08), the EU ERA-NET Plant Genomics Panel (2008) and served on the BBSRC Review of Crop Sciences and Review of Microbial Sciences. He is currently a member of the Council of the Sainsbury Laboratory and is an editor of The Plant Cell, The New Phytologist and editorial board member of Molecular Microbiology.
Abstract: Investigating the developmental biology of plant infection by the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae
N.J. Talbot, University of Exeter, UK
Magnaporthe oryzae is the causal agent of rice blast, one of the most devastating diseases of cultivated rice. Each year rice blast disease destroys enough rice to feed 60 million people. The availability of complete genome sequences for M. oryzae and its host rice, Oryza sativa, has provided the means to investigate this fungal-plant interaction in great detail. During plant infection M. oryzae develops a differentiated infection structure called an appressorium. This unicellular, dome-shaped structure generates cellular turgor that is translated into mechanical force to cause rupture of the rice cuticle and entry into plant tissue. My research group is interested in determining the molecular basis of appressorium development and understanding the genetic regulation of the plant infection process by the rice blast fungus. Recently, we have shown that development of a functional appressorium is linked to cell cycle progression and programmed autophagic cell death of the fungal spore. Appressorium formation is also associated with an oxidative burst, which requires NADPH oxidases that are virulence determinants of M. oryzae. To study appressorium physiology and function in greater detail we have used comparative genomics and next generation DNA sequencing to identify virulence-associated genes in M. oryzae and developed high throughput gene functional analysis to text their function. We have also deployed proteomics and metabolomics-based approaches to define the major genetic regulators of rice infection and to study invasive growth of the pathogen in living plant tissue.