Our Research

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Gene Regulatory Networks

Phytoalexins are defense metabolites that are biosynthesized in plants in response to pathogens. They are biosynthesize in low amounts and only transiently. Yet, numerous phytoalexins, such as the glyceollins from soybean, have valuable medicinal properties that render them attractive for pharmaceutical development. Glyceollin I has broad-spectrum anticancer and neuroprotective activities. It also has a major role in defending soybean plants against Phytophthora sojae, a major water mold pathogen that causes 1-2 billion dollars in soybean yield loss per year worldwide.

 

With the aim to help improve accessibility to phytoalexins, we are studying how their biosynthesis is regulated using the glyceollins in soybean as a model. We are currently focusing on understanding the networks of transcription factors that regulate the expression of glyceollin biosynthesis genes. We are also studying what genes in the network are conserved among plant species. Modifying the expression genes of the transcription factor network could be the key to unlocking phytoalexin biosynthesis. Enhancing phytoalexin synthesis in plants could generate economical sources of medicines and plants that have greater yields due to their enhanced disease resistance.

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