Molecular Phytopathology

Prof. Dr. Regine Kahmann

Regine Kahmann was director of the Department of Organismic Interactions between 2000 and 2019. Between April 2019 and June 2020 she served as acting head of the department and has since emeritus status. Her work was dedicated to the question how fungi colonize plants and cause disease.  Her group has developed the biotrophic fungus Ustilago maydis (see Figure below) as a model to obtain molecular insights into how this fungus suppresses host immune responses and modulates plant processes to benefit the pathogen. Since the 2006 publication of the U. maydis genome sequence and detecting clustered genes encoding novel secreted protein effectors, her group has focused on the challenging functional analysis of such novel effectors and how a subset of them are taken up by cells of the host plant.

Ustilago maydis causes large tumors in infected plants, not very appealing to the eye (Figure A) but within a week also induced in small maize seedlings under glasshouse conditions (Figure B)

Her most recent findings are listed below:

  • We have determined the structure of the secreted chorismate mutase effector Cmu1 in collaboration with the group of G. Bange and S. Rensing and identified a maize kiwellin as interactor of Cmu1.
  • We have demonstrated that the Tin2 effector of U. maydis has been neofunctionalized.
  • We have ascribed a virulence function to the Ustilago maydis sterol carrier protein 2.
  • We have demonstrated that new alleles of the homeodomain-encoding bE and bW genes arise by homologous recombination.
  • We have characterized the Sta1 effector as a novel cell wall binding protein providing stealth to fungal hyphae.
  • We have characterized the chitin deacetylase gene family in collaboration with the group of B. Moerschbacher and have demonostrated its involvement in cell wall maintenance and virulence.
  • We have characterized the Lep1 effector as a protein necessary for hyphal aggregation late during infection.
  • We have uncovered a connection between leaf tumor formation and nuclear status of U. maydis hyphae
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