Prof. Dr. Bart Thomma

Research focus

Our research aims to identify mechanisms that underly pathogenicity of fungi on plant hosts. To this end, we study the soil-borne broad host-range vascular wilt fungus Verticillium dahliae and try to understand molecular processes that mediate adaptation to plant hosts by studying the evolution of “effector activities” that are exerted by fungal secreted molecules to mediate host colonization. The functional analysis of the most relevant effector proteins leads to the discovery of crucial processes that are targeted by the fungus to subvert host immunity and support host colonization. One of the most recent significant discoveries concerns the identification of Verticillium dahliae effector proteins secreted during host colonization that manipulate the host microbiome to particularly repress microbial antagonists during host colonization. We recently demonstrated that also other fungal pathogen exploit this colonization strategy.

Most important publications

  1. Torres DE, Kramer HM, Tracanna V, Fiorin GL, Cook DE, Seidl MF, Thomma B (2024) Implications of the three-dimensional chromatin organization for genome evolution in a fungal plant pathogen. Nat Commun 15(1):1701. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-45884-x.
  2. Chavarro-Carrero EA, Snelders NC, Torres DE, Kraege A, López-Moral A, Petti GC, Punt W, Wieneke J, García-Velasco R, López-Herrera CJ, Seidl MF, Thomma B (2024) The soil-borne white root rot pathogen Rosellinia necatrix expresses antimicrobial proteins during host colonization. PLoS Pathog 20(1):e1011866. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011866.
  3. Snelders NC, Boshoven JC, Song Y, Schmitz N, Fiorin GL, Rövenich H, van den Berg GCM, Torres DE, Petti GC, Prockl Z, Faino L, Seidl MF, Thomma B (2023) A highly polymorphic effector protein promotes fungal virulence through suppression of plant-associated Actinobacteria. New Phytol 237(3):944-958. doi: 10.1111/nph.18576.
  4. Snelders NC, Petti GC, van den Berg GCM, Seidl MF, Thomma B (2021) An ancient antimicrobial protein co-opted by a fungal plant pathogen for in planta mycobiome manipulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 118(49). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2110968118.
  5. Snelders NC, Rövenich H, Petti GC, Rocafort M, van den Berg GCM, Vorholt JA, Mesters JR, Seidl MF, Nijland R, Thomma B (2020) Microbiome manipulation by a soil-borne fungal plant pathogen using effector proteins. Nat Plants 6(11):1365-1374. doi: 10.1038/s41477-020-00799-5.
  6. Cook DE, Kramer HM, Torres DE, Seidl MF, Thomma B (2020) A unique chromatin profile defines adaptive genomic regions in a fungal plant pathogen. Elife 9. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62208.
  7. Faino L, Seidl MF, Shi-Kunne X, Pauper M, van den Berg GC, Wittenberg AH, Thomma BP (2016) Transposons passively and actively contribute to evolution of the two-speed genome of a fungal pathogen. Genome Res 26(8):1091-1100. doi: 10.1101/gr.204974.116.
  8. Sanchez-Vallet A, Saleem-Batcha R, Kombrink A, Hansen G, Valkenburg DJ, Thomma BP, Mesters JR (2013) Fungal effector Ecp6 outcompetes host immune receptor for chitin binding through intrachain LysM dimerization. Elife 2:e00790. doi: 10.7554/eLife.00790.
  9. de Jonge R, van Esse HP, Maruthachalam K, Bolton MD, Santhanam P, Saber MK, Zhang Z, Usami T, Lievens B, Subbarao KV, Thomma BP (2012) Tomato immune receptor Ve1 recognizes effector of multiple fungal pathogens uncovered by genome and RNA sequencing. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109(13):5110-5115. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1119623109.
  10. de Jonge R, van Esse HP, Kombrink A, Shinya T, Desaki Y, Bours R, van der Krol S, Shibuya N, Joosten MH, Thomma BP (2010) Conserved fungal LysM effector Ecp6 prevents chitin-triggered immunity in plants. Science 329(5994):953-955. doi: 10.1126/science.1190859.
Prof. Dr. Bart Thomma

0221 470 89261

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Institute for Plant Sciences, Cologne Biocenter
University of Cologne