August 28, 2018

Kayleigh O’Keeffe (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)

How Microbial Interactions Affect Infection & Gene Expression of a Plant Pathogen


Microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi, are found in many host organisms like humans, animals, and plants. These microorganisms can have different effects on their host and on each other. In disease ecology and evolution, there is rising interest in how interactions among microbial species influence disease… how do they affect pathogen transmission and infections, how do they affect genetic patterns within population of pathogens. These interactions have the potential to profoundly influence both host and pathogen populations. Plants and their pathogens are easily-manipulated systems that would facilitate studies of these microbial interactions that could clarify their effects on disease in general. This study will examine the influence of microbial interactions on pathogen infection and genetic patterns following transmission. I will address these questions experimentally by studying responses of the focal plant pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani, to microbial interactions within its grass host, tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus). I will focus specifically on its interactions with Epichloë coenophiala, a fungal species that lives within plants without causing disease, and Puccinia coronata, another fungal pathogen.