Lewis Awarded NSF Grant

Pathogens cause tremendous crop losses worldwide and evolve quickly to overwhelm existing host immunity. To combat these significant problems and design rational strategies for crop protection, it is necessary to thoroughly understand the molecular mechanisms of host immunity. HopZ1a is a Pseudomonas syringae type III secreted effector (T3SE) protein, and is recognized indirectly through ZAR1, a nucleotide-binding site leucine-rich repeat containing receptor (NLR) protein, when HopZ1a acetylates the ZED1 pseudokinase. ZED1 appears to be a decoy that has evolved to trap the T3SE into recognition, as it is not a functional kinase and does not have a role in basal immunity. This grant will examine ZAR1 and ZED1 diversity in order to develop constraints for rational design of a pathogen decoy.

As part of the grant, the Lewis lab will collaborate with a local two-year college that primarily serves underprivileged students and underrepresented groups. The lab will host several students for a summer to learn new scientific techniques. Members of the lab will design a 5-week module on plant immunity that will be taught at the college. This will provide teaching opportunities for students and post-docs, and increase the participation of underrepresented groups in science. These efforts will encourage underrepresented students to pursue and excel at multi-disciplinary scientific research, provide outreach opportunities for graduate students and post-docs, and make progress on significant scientific and agricultural problems.