- Functional adaptation of parasitic plants
- Molecular signaling pathways
- Multi-omic analysis
Within the Orobanchaceae family of root parasitic plants, broomrapes (Orobanche and Phelipanche spp.) and witchweeds (Striga spp.) together count for the most important weeds of major domesticated crops worldwide. Critical to their survival are numerous functional adaptations that enable these obligate parasites to coordinate their lifecycle with those of their hosts. One of these most interesting features lies in their ability to respond to their surrounding hosts at the very first steps of development, even before a physical continuum is established. Indeed, the host roots exude a variety of compounds in the soil, which enable nearby parasites’ dormant seeds to germinate and later to differentiate haustorial structures required for attachment to the host root. By coupling germination and rhizotron bioassays with state-of-the-art RNA sequencing, proteomics, and metabolomics techniques, my research aims to address the following fundamental questions:
- What ecological and physiological parameters determine seed response to host-derived compounds?
- What molecular mechanisms underlie host-induced seed germination and haustorium formation?
- Do the molecular mechanisms of seed germination and haustorium formation differ between weedy parasites and their non-weedy relatives?
Answers to these questions will both advance our fundamental understanding of the interaction between the parasites and their hosts and help to contain a major food security issue.