Nicole Kho Clay

Assistant Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Research Summary: The plant innate immune system is constantly evolving at the interface between the plant host and microbe, and this adaptation includes both the cell surface surveillance of perceived pathogens through their microbe-associated molecular patterns, or MAMPs, and the production of defense-related secondary metabolites. The former is a conserved strategy of eukaryotic innate immune systems while the latter is a hallmark response of the plant innate immune system, which relies more heavily on diversified chemical defenses than those of motile organisms. The Clay lab is focused on understanding the molecular basis for the adaptive diversification of the plant innate immune system, which is based on the perception and production of small molecules, and rivals the mammalian innate immune system in combating pathogenic infections. In particular, we are interested in understanding how pathogen discrimination is achieved through molecular pattern recognition, and how the chemical outcomes of secondary metabolic pathways are diversified and functionalized.

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