Profile of Prof Paul Birch
Current research interests
To be a successful pathogen, microbes need to suppress or otherwise manipulate host defences. For this, they secrete proteins and other chemicals that can interact with the host cell. In some cases, these virulence determinants are translocated inside host cells where they re-programme defences and metabolism to the pathogen’s benefit. My group focuses the oomycete late blight pathogen of potato, Phytophthora infestans.
We are particularly interested in ‘effector’ proteins that are translocated inside the host cell, in the mechanisms by which they are delivered and the means by which they are regulated in P. infestans. We want to know when they are needed and where they are localised during infection. We want to know the mode of action of such virulence determinants: what are their host targets and what roles do those targets play in plant defence, development or metabolism? We also want to identify those effectors that are recognised by resistance proteins in wild potato and non-host plants, and to elucidate the precise mechanisms underpinning recognition.