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The plant immune system recognizes pests and pathogens and activates inducible defense responses. Our lab aims to understand how plants detect and respond to different classes of attackers, and how plants recognize the huge breadth of potential threats through a limited number of receptor-encoding genes. Our lens on immune recognition is to study the large set of several hundred receptor kinases, which can specifically bind diverse pest-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).
One of the most important innovations in land plant evolution was the development of a vascular system (the set of tubes that moves water and nutrients through the body). These conducting tissues amplified mass flow rates by orders of magnitude, allowing plants to increase their photosynthetic capacity, grow larger, and alter aspects of the terrestrial ecosystem including carbon dioxide sequestration and increased oxygenation, in turn, profoundly affecting the course of evolution for life on land.
Plants are amazing survival artists capable of enduring harsh environments and thriving in newly opened niches. My research seeks to broadly understand how environmental changes and biological interactions re-model the genealogical histories across the plant’s genome, with the aim of identifying key innovations responsible for adaptive changes. At the macroevolutionary scale, I will demonstrate how whole genome duplications buffered plants through a historical global warming, and how ancient gene flows created hyperdiverse clades in the neotropics and Chinese Hengduan Mountains.