Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences Experts

Yu Chen

Department of Bioinformatics and Biosystems Technology


Dr. Yu Chen is a Research Associate in the Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison. she enjoys her research which focuses on the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions. Out of the lab, one of the activities she enjoys the most is spending time with her family and friends. They fun together and give each other support. She also like meeting new people with diverse background and cultures. Getting in touch with their experiences and cultural heritage is a personal enjoyment for her. Other than that, her No. 1 hobby is gardening. Time flies when she is working in the garden, taking care of the plants or just looking at them. She also like cooking and trying different recipes. After getting more calories than she need, she goes to the gym and burn the extra calories by dancing Zumba.

Research Interest

Different from animals’ somatic adaptive immune system, the plant immune system includes many elements that are unique to plants. It is fascinating to study the molecular basis of plant disease resistance. Different types of pathogens have been found to be able to deliver an arsenal of virulence molecules called effectors into host intercellular space or cytoplasm to promote pathogenesis. Some effectors can be recognized by host resistance proteins and trigger host resistance; however, some effectors are capable of manipulating host metabolisms and leading to host susceptibility. Currently, one of the hottest areas in effector studies is to characterize the virulence of effectors and reveal the molecular connections between effector triggered resistance and susceptibility.        The plant disease I have been working with is potato late blight. Potato late blight, caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans, is one of the most destructive plant diseases. Nowadays the most frequently used management strategy to control late blight is to spray fungicides repeatedly, which is expensive and causes environmental concerns. Therefore, the best way to control the disease is through natural host resistance. The RB gene, cloned from the diploid wild potato species Solanum bulbocastanum, confers partial resistance to most P. infestans isolates through its recognition of the corresponding pathogen effector family IPI-O.  IPI-O is a multigene family of effectors. While the majority of IPI-O proteins are recognized by RB to elicit host resistance (e.g. IPI-O1, IPI-O2), some family members are able to elude detection (e.g. IPI-O4). We found IPI-O4 blocks recognition of IPI-O1, leading to inactivation of RB-mediated resistance. Currently we are working on the diversity and modification of the RB protein, with the hope to identify naturally occurring or engineered variants of RB that can recognize more IPI-O effectors or cannot be suppressed by IPI-O effectors.

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