Exploring the HMA world in plant/pathogen interactions


Plant diseases are a continuous threat to food production and a major constraint on achieving global food security in the background of a changing climate and the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. One approach to addressing the issues caused by plant diseases is to understand the molecular basis of communication between the pathogen and host.

Recently, HIPs/HIPPs (heavy metal-associated plant proteins) were shown to be targeted by host-translocated pathogen effector proteins from the cereal blast pathogen (Magnaporthe oryzae), presumably to promote disease. M. oryzae is the most devastating disease of rice, estimated to destroy enough of this crop to feed >212 million people annually. We understand very little about the function of rice HIPs/HIPPs, either in natural host cell physiology or in disease.

This project will involve a systematic investigation the function of specific HIPs/HIPPs by assaying their cellular localisation, post-translational modification, interactors, and how these activities maybe perturbed by the pathogen. There will also be opportunities to investigate how HIPs/HIPPs can be re-purposed for plant immunity.

The studentship will involve techniques including molecular biology, confocal microscopy, proteomics, biochemistry and structural biology. There will also be the opportunity to work with national and international collaborators.

The student will receive expert training in diverse disciplines on a strategically relevant topic, within a stimulating research environment. They will join a team of researchers with shared interests and have access to world-class facilities. Further, it is expected they will attend national and international conferences to present their research.


De la Concepcion JC, Fujisaki K, Bentham A, Cruz N, Sanchez V, Lawson D, Kamoun S, Terauchi R & Banfield MJ* (2021) Binding of a blast fungus Zinc-finger fold effector to a hydrophobic pocket in the host exocyst subunit Exo70 modulates immune recognition in rice. bioRxiv: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.06.18.496527

Mukhi N, Brown H, Gorenkin D, Ding P, Bentham AR, Jones JDG & Banfield MJ* (2021) Perception of structurally distinct effectors by the integrated WRKY domain of a plant immune receptor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 118: e2113996118

De la Concepcion JC, Benjumea JV, BiaƂas A, Terauchi R, Kamoun S & Banfield MJ* (2021) Functional diversification drives specialization in a rice NLR immune receptor pair. eLife 10: e71662.

Maidment JH, Franceschetti M, Maqbool A, Saitoh H, Jantasuriyarat C, Kamoun S, Terauchi R & Banfield MJ* (2021) Multiple variants of the blast fungus effector AVR-Pik bind the HMA domain of the rice protein OsHIPP19 with high affinity. Journal of Biological Chemistry 296: 100371

De la Concepcion JC, Maidment JH, Longya A, Xiao G, Franceschetti M, & Banfield MJ* (2021) The allelic rice immune receptor Pikh confers extended resistance to strains of the blast fungus through a single polymorphism in the effector binding interface. PLOS Pathogens 17: e1009368