Claude dePamphilis, Professor of Biology
Penn State University
Topic: Widespread transfers of informational molecules between parasitic plants and their hosts: functional and evolutionary implications.
Parasitic plants use direct haustorial connections to extract water, mineral nutrients, and a wide array of organic compounds. While most of the at least 3000 species of parasitic plants appear to do little damage to their host plants, a small fraction are extremely damaging in agricultural systems. I will focus on recent evidence for movements of DNA, messenger RNAs and small RNAs between parasitic plants and their hosts in two parasitic plant systems, Orobanchaceae and Cuscuta, These movements have profound evolutionary and functional implications for our understanding of both parasitic and nonparasitic plants, including crosstalk between informational molecules in host-parasite interactions. Although current data only explore a small fraction of potential information transfer events in parasite-host systems, and functional studies are much needed, these studies have profound implications for the evolution of parasitism and parasitic plant genomes, and they greatly complicate any simple view of the Tree of Life.
Host Lab: Davis