Project: Dissecting natural and quantitative variations in host-pathogen interactions (?super-organisms?) in multiple environments by genetical genomics on both partners

Plants are attacked by a myriad of pathogens and the outcome of these interactions result in a wide spectrum of phenotypes, ranging from absolute resistance to highly susceptible. The outcomes of these interactions are determined by the genomes of the plants, the genomes of the pathogens and environmental factors, like temperature, nutrients, pH and soil type.

Current research in plant pathology is mainly focussed at unravelling the mechanisms behind qualitative resistances, mainly conferred by major R genes that are hardly influenced by environmental factors. The goal of this project is to provide a theoretical and experimental framework to dissect quantitative variations in host plant resistances by analysing the interactions between the genomes of the host and the pathogen, and the influence of abiotic factors on these host-pathogen interactions. This will be accomplished by providing proof of concept for the idea that the interaction between a host and a pathogen can be considered as single, virtual organism with a super-genome (M +N), with M chromosomes from the host and N chromosomes from the pathogen. This novel concept will allow detecting bi-directional molecular connections by analysing expression QTLs in both organisms using genome-wide expression data from recombinant inbred lines.