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Wenbo Ma

Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK

Wenbo Ma received her Ph.D degree from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2003. She was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. She established her independent research group at the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, University of California Riverside in 2006 and was promoted to full professor in 2015. Her group will relocate to the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK in 2020. Research in Wenbo’s laboratory investigates the molecular basis of the dynamic plant-pathogen arms race by elucidating the function and evolution of pathogen virulence proteins called effectors, which directly manipulate plant immunity and other cellular processes in the host to facilitate disease development. Using effectors as molecular probes, her research provides mechanistic insight into microbial pathogenesis and plant immunity. Some of their recent findings include the identification of RNA silencing suppressors in oomycetes, which has now been shown as a common virulence strategy utilized by eukaryotic pathogens. They also discovered the secondary small interfering RNA pathway as a novel component in plant defense through host-induced gene silencing. This research sets the foundation to enhance disease resistance in crops. Currently, her group studies the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora that causes economically important diseases including potato late blight and the bacterial pathogen Liberibacter, which causes the devastating citrus Huanglongbing (HLB, aka greening disease).

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