Saskia’s research interests focus on understanding the mechanisms that drive interactions between plants and insects and the role of microbes in these interactions.
She is particularly interested in aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers and other sap-feeding insects of the order Hemiptera. The saliva of these insects contains virulence factors (effectors) that modulate plant responses and aid insect colonisation. The research focuses on the identification and functional analysis of these insect effectors and on finding their targets in the plant.
Hemipteran insects are efficient vectors of a diverse range of plant pathogens, predominantly viruses and bacteria. Leafhoppers transmit phytoplasmas, which induce dramatic changes in plant development, including proliferation of stems (witch’s brooms) and the reversion of flowers into leaf-like organs (phyllody).
Phytoplasma induce these phenotypes via the secretion of effectors that interact with and degrade conserved (plant) proteins, including TCP and MADS-box transcription factors. The plants also become very susceptible and attractive to phytoplasma insect vectors. Professor Hogenhout studies how phytoplasma effectors modulate plant defences to insects.
The work in her lab spans the fields of (functional) genomics, molecular genetics, entomology, plant pathology, virology and bacteriology, and more recently, also population biology and mechanistic modelling.
Enquiries to join the group from interested postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists are always welcomed.
Fellowship and PhD studentship positions can potentially be funded by the BBSRC, EU or John Innes Centre.