Research Interests

As a geneticist, I am interested in the molecular basis for disease resistance in plants. Mendelian factors in both host and pathogen have long been known to determine, in combinatorial fashion, the outcome of disease inception. In the system I study, a filamentous fungus named Cochliobolus carbonum secretes a cyclic tetrapeptide, HC-toxin, that inhibits the histone deacetylases of its host, maize. This enables the fungus to infect the maize which combats the infection by producing a protective enzyme. The enzyme, HC-toxin reductase, inactivates HC-toxin, thus protecting the transcriptional machinery required for mounting a defense response. More recently, I have started the Torrey Mesa Research Institute to develop a research organization that will elucidate the functional relationships between most of the molecules in an organism. Our first step was to develop the technology needed to assay the genes, transcripts, proteins, and metabolites of rice. Now we are examining the response of rice to perturbations. We will apply a similar approach to mammals. Our goal is to understand the relationship between the physiology of food plants and the physiology of animals that consume them, including humans.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology