B.A., Natural Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
M.S., Forestry, Duke University
Ph.D., Plant Pathology, University of Florida
As Director, Jim English' primary responsibility is to provide administrative leadership for the division's teaching, research and extension programs. The division has nearly 50 core faculty and about 30 adjunct faculty from two USDA-ARS Research Units housed on the MU campus, the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center in St. Louis and elsewhere. Information about those programs can be found elsewhere in this Web site.
In the course of infecting a plant root, the soilborne fungus Phytophthora develops through a series of life stages from dormant propagules to infective zoospore cysts. The transition from one life stage to the next depends on environmental signals, particularly those generated by host plants.
The long-term goal of James English's research program is to identify and express, in a plant tissue-specific fashion, novel biomolecules that disrupt life stage progression that depends on environmental signals. Currently, English and his colleagues are using a phage display approach to identify and characterize combinatorial peptides that interfere with pre-infectious life-stage development of two Phytophthora species.
The central hypothesis is that there exist Phytophthora cell-surface receptors whose targeting will inhibit subsequent developmental (i.e., infectious) processes, and that phage display will identify ligands that target these receptors. The rationale for these studies is that peptides targeting these receptors (defined broadly as any ligand-binding molecule) will provide a molecular genetic, environmentally benign, method of disease control.
In a second project, they are studying the basis of soybean tolerance to infection by Phytophthora sojae. Tolerance is defined on the basis of soybean field performance in the presence of the pathogen. Tolerance ratings reflect only yield; they do not reflect an understanding of mechanisms by which plants tolerate infection to produce a crop. Currently, we are characterizing the expression of pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins in infected soybean plants of varying tolerance. PR proteins are being used as disease resistance markers that will assist in localizing the timing and tissue specificity of plant defense responses in these cultivars.