Gregory B. Martin is a molecular biologist recognized for his pioneering work on the molecular basis of the plant immune system and the mechanisms by which bacterial pathogens manipulate this immune system to promote disease. He is known particularly for his work on an intracellular receptor complex in tomato that activates immune signaling upon detection of specific virulence proteins translocated into the plant cell from bacterial pathogens. Martin was born in Lansing, Michigan and earned his B.S. in crop science, M.Sc. in plant breeding, and Ph.D. in genetics all at Michigan State University. He conducted postdoctoral research with Steve Tanksley at Cornell University and joined Purdue University as an Assistant Professor in 1992. In 1998, he moved to the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) and Cornell University, where he is now the Boyce Schulze Downy Professor at BTI and Professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell. He was recognized with a David & Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship for Science and Engineering, the Herbert Newby McCoy Award for Outstanding Research from Purdue University, and the Noel Keen Award for Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology from the American Phytopathological Society. Martin is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy for Microbiology, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Plants have a sophisticated immune system that allows both extracellular and intracellular detection of pathogen features and consequent activation of defense responses to suppress disease. The Martin lab studies the molecular basis of plant immunity and the ways in which bacterial pathogens undermine this system to cause disease. In early work, Martin developed and applied genetic map-based cloning methods in tomato to clone the Pto gene, which confers resistance to the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. Pto was the first gene identified from a plant whose product allows recognition of specific pathogen virulence (effector) proteins. The gene encodes a cytoplasmic protein kinase which was a first indication that recognition of effectors occurs inside the plant cell. His lab discovered that Pto interacts directly with two effector proteins, AvrPto and AvrPtoB, and has elucidated the signaling pathways activated by these recognition events. The structure of the AvrPto and AvrPtoB proteins provided insights into their virulence mechanisms and highlighted the importance of post-translational modifications in both suppression and activation of the plant immune system. Current research in the lab is focused on using genome editing and natural variation in tomato and its wild relatives to identify and characterize genes involved in mediating resistance to multiple bacterial pathogens. The ultimate goal of the lab's research is to generate foundational knowledge to aid in the development of plants with increased natural resistance to diseases.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology