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 dahliaeand 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 discoveries concerns the identification of Verticillium dahliaeeffector proteins secreted during host colonization that manipulate the host microbiome to particularly repress microbial antagonists.

The five most important publications

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sanchez-Vallet A, Tian H, Rodriguez-Moreno L, Valkenburg DJ, Saleem-Batcha R, Wawra S, Kombrink A, Verhage L, de Jonge R, van Esse HP, Zuccaro A, Croll D, Mesters JR, Thomma B (2020) A secreted LysM effector protects fungal hyphae through chitin-dependent homodimer polymerization. PLoS Pathog 16(6):e1008652. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008652.
  4. Depotter JRL, Shi-Kunne X, Missonnier H, Liu T, Faino L, van den Berg GCM, Wood TA, Zhang B, Jacques A, Seidl MF, Thomma B (2019) Dynamic virulence-related regions of the plant pathogenic fungus Verticillium dahliae display enhanced sequence conservation. Mol Ecol 28(15):3482-3495. doi: 10.1111/mec.15168.
  5. 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.
Prof. Dr. Bart Thomma

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Institute for Plant Sciences, Cologne Biocenter
University of Cologne