Prof Saskia Hogenhout

Project Leader
Cell and Developmental Biology

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

Our 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. We 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). We 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. We work in close collaboration with Dr Ian Bedford and the Entomology facility at the John Innes Centre.

How plants become zombies

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JIC training to help scientists fight disease-causing bacteria

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Recent Publications

Coleman A. D., Wouters R. H., Mugford S. T., Hogenhout S. A. (2015)

Persistence and transgenerational effect of plant-mediated RNAi in aphids.

Journal of Experimental Botany 66 (2) p541-8

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/jxb/eru450

Saigo M., Golic A., Alvarez C. E., Andreo C. S., Hogenhout S. A., Mussi M. A., Drincovich M. F. (2014)

Metabolic regulation of phytoplasma malic enzyme and phosphotransacetylase supports the use of malate as an energy source in these plant pathogens.

Microbiology 160 (Pt 12) p2794-806

Publisher’s version: 10.1099/mic.0.083469-0

Su H. J., Hogenhout S. A., Al-Sadi A. M., Kuo C. H. (2014)

Complete chloroplast genome sequence of Omani lime (Citrus aurantiifolia) and comparative analysis within the rosids.

PLoS ONE 9 pe113049

Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113049

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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