Research Interests

As a geneticist and biochemist, I have studied molecular principles underlying the innate immune system of plants. I am particularly interested in understanding how immune sensors perceive the presence of non-self structures, derived from pathogens, and how the activated sensors initiate powerful immune responses that terminate pathogen growth. I use for these studies the model plant Arabidopsis and, for comparison, crop plants to learn how humans have influenced through the process of domestication the effectiveness of the immune system. I found that one of these immune sensors, designated MLA, requires for its function a dedicated folding machinery for the assembly of an autorepressed receptor form and that the activated receptor initiates immune responses as homodimer from a C-terminal protein module. I have also studied the molecular basis underlying the host range of pathogens and developed a molecular evolutionary concept how changes in the repertoires of plant immune sensors and pathogen effectors enable host range expansions, including host jumps. More recently, I am interested in identifying principles underlying the ability of plants to establish associations with microbial communities in the root. The model plant Arabidopsis is used for these studies that are beginning to reveal complex interactions between microbial soil life and root functions.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology