Prof Saskia Hogenhout

Project Leader
Crop Genetics

Saskia’s research focuses on insect - plant interactions and the vector-borne bacterial plant parasites, Phytoplasma.

Saskia uses genomics, genetics and RNA interference (RNAi) approaches to identify insect and Phytoplasma virulence proteins (effectors) that modulate plant defence responses and plant resistance and susceptibility genes.

Her research elucidates fundamental processes involved in plant-insect interactions and has a strong translational component with the goal to improve crop resistance to insect pests and vector-borne disease agents via classical and genome-editing-based breeding approaches.  

  • Characterization of insect pest virulence factors required for crop colonization
  • Identification of plant resistance and susceptibility genes to insect pests and Phytoplasma
  • Classical breeding and CRISPR of crops to control insect pests and insect-borne plant pathogens


Research in the Hogenhout lab centres on Molecular-Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions (MPMII).

Their first goal is to better understand the molecular basis of plant interactions with insect herbivores, particularly aphids, leafhoppers and whiteflies (hemipterans). These insects produce virulence proteins (effectors) in their saliva that modulate plant responses and aid insect colonization.

The group have identified insect effectors and are in the process of analysing their functions by finding plant targets and knocking down corresponding genes in the insects by plant-mediated RNA interference (RNAi).

Hemipteran insects are efficient transmitters of a diverse range of plant pathogens, predominantly viruses and bacteria, and hence may be viewed as the ‘mosquitoes of plants’. Therefore, our second goal is to understand plant-insect-pathogen interactions. Leafhoppers transmit phytoplasmas, which are bacterial plant pathogens related to mycoplasmas. Phytoplasmas induce dramatic changes in plant development, including proliferation of stems (witch’s brooms) and the reversion of flowers into leaf-like organs (phyllody). They have identified phytoplasma effectors that induce these phenotypes by interacting and degrading conserved proteins, including TCPs and MADS-box transcription factors. Plants also become very susceptible and attractive to insect vectors on which the phytoplasmas depend for transmission to other plants.  Thus, phytoplasmas appear to completely hijack their plant hosts changing them into ‘zombies’ destined to maximise pathogen survival.

By definition, studies on MPMII are interdisciplinary and require expertise with at least three unrelated organisms.

The group work in close collaboration with Dr Ian Bedford and the Entomology facility at the John Innes Centre.

How to be a successful pest: lessons from the green peach aphid

read more

How plants become zombies

read more

JIC training to help scientists fight disease-causing bacteria

read more

Recent Publications

Tomkins M., Kliot A., Maree A. F. M., Hogenhout S. A. (2018)

A multi-layered mechanistic modelling approach to understand how effector genes extend beyond phytoplasma to modulate plant hosts, insect vectors and the environment.

Current Opinion in Plant Biology 44 p39-48

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.pbi.2018.02.002

Vincent T. R., Canham J., Toyota M., Avramova M., Mugford S. T., Gilroy S., Miller A. J., Hogenhout S., Sanders D. (2017)

Real-time In Vivo Recording of Arabidopsis Calcium Signals During Insect Feeding Using a Fluorescent Biosensor

JOVE 126 p56142

Publisher’s version: 10.3791/56142

Vincent T. R., Avramova M., Canham J., Higgins P., Bilkey N., Mugford S. T., Pitino M., Toyota M., Gilroy S., Miller A. J., Hogenhout S., Sanders D. (2017)

Interplay of plasma membrane and vacuolar ion channels, together with BAK1, elicits rapid cytosolic calcium elevations in Arabidopsis during aphid feeding.

Plant Cell Epub ahead of print pEpub ahead of print

Publisher’s version: 10.1105/tpc.17.00136

Orlovskis Z., Canale C., Haryono M., Lopes J. R. S., Kuo C. H., Hogenhout S. A. (2017)

A few sequence polymorphisms among isolates of Maize bushy stunt phytoplasma associate with organ proliferation symptoms of infected maize plants.

Annals of Botany 119 p869-884

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/aob/mcw213

Mathers T. C., Chen Y., Kaithakottil G., Legeai F., Mugford S. T., Baa-Puyoulet P., Bretaudeau A., Clavijo B., Colella S., Collin O., Dalmay T., Derrien T., Feng H., Gabaldón T., Jordan A., Julca I., Kettles G. J., Kowitwanich K., Lavenier D., Lenzi P., Lopez-Gomollon S., Loska D., Mapleson D., Maumus F., Moxon S., Price D. R., Sugio A., van Munster M., Uzest M., Waite D., Jander G., Tagu D., Wilson A. C., van Oosterhout C., Swarbreck D., Hogenhout S. A. (2017)

Rapid transcriptional plasticity of duplicated gene clusters enables a clonally reproducing aphid to colonise diverse plant species.

Genome biology 18 p27

Publisher’s version: 10.1186/s13059-016-1145-3

View All

Saskia Hogenhout

  • Friederike Bernsdorff Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Christine Wilson Postgraduate Student
  • Dr Vera Thole Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Pascal Pecher Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Zigmunds Orlovskis Postgraduate Student
  • Dr Sam Mugford Research Assistant
  • Claire Drurey Postgraduate Student
  • Dr Yazhou Chen Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Ian Bedford Senior Scientist
  • Thomas Vincent Postgraduate Student


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