Our lab seeks to understand the events that occur at the cellular and molecular levels, which result in plants being resistant or susceptible to disease. To do this, we utilise wet-lab and bioinformatic approaches which examine both the plant and pathogen sides of the interaction in model, crop and tree systems. The Kettles lab is specifically interested in the following areas:
Pathogen effectors – to overcome the powerful plant immune system, pathogens secrete effector proteins to suppress host immunity and facilitate colonisation. Identification of effectors, how they work and how they might be recognized by plants promises much for the future genetic control of plant diseases.
Non-host resistance (NHR) – NHR is a long-known but poorly understood form of plant disease resistance. However, it offers great potential as it is highly robust and not easily overcome by pathogens. Successfully harnessing NHR could revolutionise the control of diseases in crop and tree systems. We are particularly interested in the contribution that effector recognition makes to NHR.
Plant microbiomes – the complex communities of microorganisms that associate with plants are now known to be important factors in increasing overall plant health and offering protection from environmental stress. Knowing how these complex communities assemble, change over time and limit incursion by potential pathogens could lead to new ways to limit losses to disease.
Impact of CO2 on the plant immune system – Global environmental change, including the increased level of CO2 in the atmosphere will likely have significant impact on agriculture and forestry. We are starting to investigate how acclimations made by plants to a high CO2 environment will influence their ability to withstand pathogens and pests.
The goal of our research is to develop new and effective ways to combat disease-causing organisms. For crops, this will contribute towards food security at a time when humanity faces the grand challenge of feeding a rapidly growing population. Our work in collaboration with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) aims to enhance understanding of disease processes in trees and how this might be influenced by climate change. To do this, we make use of the unique BIFoR-FACE facility at Mill Haft woodland in Staffordshire. Our aim is to help safeguard these long-lived organisms which contribute to the vitality of our countryside and cities.