2020 - Issue 3

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Sep 11
Interactions Issue 3, 2020
2020-Q9 IS-MPMI Interactions Issue 3 (copy)
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MPMI Interactions Issue 2 - 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought unprecedented disruptions in our lives. IS-MPMIConnect is a new, virtual platform that will help us promote interactions between members, strengthen our collaboration, improve dialogue, and develop a stronger network.

Also in this issue...
First author Laura Bacete, a former graduate student in the lab of Antonio Molina and current postdoc at the Institute for Biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, details the journey to discovering how plant cell-wall composition plays a role in disease resistance.
Corresponding authors Dawei Xin and Qingshan Chen, Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, China, describe their study, which was designed to identify the mechanism regulating the establishment of symbiosis in soybean, enabling it to fix nitrogen from the air.
Li-Na Yang and co-authors explore the role of intrinsic disorder in the development of pathogenicity in the RXLR AVR2 effector of Phytophthora infestans. Their results support the notion that intrinsic disorder is important for the effector function of pathogens.
With the gold open access launch in January 2021, the MPMI journal will become more accessible than ever and can serve as a community meeting place for all. Jeanne Harris, MPMI editor-in-chief, envisions the journal as a place to tackle the big questions in molecular plant–microbe interactions.
The What’s New in MPMI! virtual seminar series provides new ways for the IS-MPMI community to connect and for MPMI to engage with readers and authors. The interaction is outside the regular publication cycle and is much more personal, giving readers and listeners the chance to directly interact with the authors.
With many conferences and regular seminar series cancelled, and many courses being held remotely, the MPMI virtual seminar series, What’s New in MPMI!, is being used by teachers looking for scientific seminars for their students or additional content for a course.
We are always looking for content for Interactions. Please contact Interactions Editor-in-Chief Dennis Halterman with questions or article ideas.

Sep 10
Has COVID Got You Down? It's Time to reConnect!


Submitted by Allyson MacLean, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada

Al​lyson MacLean enjoying some family time with her daughters.

It was shortly after 2 p.m., and I kept checking the time, concerned about losing track of the day. My job that afternoon was to host my department’s first ever virtual seminar in less than an hour, and I was nervous about how things were going to proceed. Would the Internet connection from my guest’s home be strong enough? Would the technology perform flawlessly? And what exactly was the best way to moderate questions from an unseen audience? At this early stage of the pandemic, the virtual seminar series that would soon flourish had yet to be conceived, and rules governing virtual etiquette were still being established. I kept feeling an urge to log online and make sure everything was in order. And yet, instead I was reading Peppa Pig to my 2-year-old, snuggling with her in my bed as she was settling down for a nap.

I will always remember 2020 as the year in which my roles as a mother to two young children and an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa abruptly merged into one chaotic mess. To reconcile the needs of caring for a 2- and a 4-year-old suddenly at home, with the demands of a full-time teaching and research position, meant very early mornings, careful coordination with my husband’s work schedule, and incredibly long days. A colleague of mine, Marina Cvetkovska, expressed it best, “My days feel like an endless boring Saturday with a hint of panic.”

My story was far from unique: most parents were facing these same struggles. With a new era of Zoom meetings featuring young children climbing onto the laps of colleagues and collaborators rapidly emerging. I found myself asking the question “How can we all pull together to help one another?” Over the course of a few late-night Zoom meetings between myself, Mary Beth Mudgett (IS-MPMI president), Jeanne Harris (editor-in-chief, MPMI), and Dennis Halterman (editor-in-chief, IS-MPMI Interactions), the idea of creating an online forum to promote community and connection during a period defined by self-isolation and social distancing began to take shape.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought unprecedented disruptions to both our personal and professional lives, changing the ways in which we work, network, and even communicate with one another, possibly forever. COVID-19 has also laid bare some of the societal inequities in countries across the globe, and within the structures of our own scientific community, disproportionately affecting early career researchers, for example, as well as women and parents, all of whom are inherently more vulnerable to disruptions in their career and home lives. Yet, the pandemic has also seen scientists and researchers from all disciplines pull together to collaborate on a scale never seen before—with online conferences about vaccine development including virologists, immunologists, oncologists, veterinarians, and at least one plant biologist. I continue to find hope in this.

Now is a time to connect with one another, to strengthen our collaboration, to improve dialogue, and to develop a stronger network that will see us emerge from this catastrophe as a community more united than ever. IS-MPMIConnect is a new, virtual platform that will help us do just that: promote interactions between members, offering support and community to help us overcome the challenges this pandemic has imposed upon us as researchers, teachers, and caregivers—all human beings with multifaceted, complex lives that have been unexpectedly altered this past year. IS-MPMIConnect was originally conceived as a means of fostering a network that would connect those in need of research and teaching support with those able to provide such help, yet this initiative quickly developed into so much more.

We offer IS-MPMIConnect as a venue for our members to facilitate networking, collaboration, discussion, mentorship, and inclusion, with a goal of strengthening our community in bad times and good. We are presently developing a website to host this forum, and we welcome members of our society who wish to participate in this to contact us at We are also soliciting feedback in the form of a survey designed to gauge interest in a range of topics and activities we think will be meaningful to our members—please, take a moment to offer your feedback.

In closing, 2020 has ushered in a new “normal” for everyone, and at all stages of our careers; IS-MPMIConnect will help us to shape the direction this new path takes within our society.

Sep 10
InterConnections: Get to Know Member Laura Bacete

The May 2020 Editor’s pick for MPMI is “Arabidopsis Response Regulator 6 (ARR6) Modulates Plant Cell-Wall Composition and Disease Resistance.” The first author is Laura Bacete, a graduate student in the lab of Antonio Molina at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. To read more about Laura, you can find her bio here​. Laura is now a postdoc at the Institute for Biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Antonio recently presented this work in a What’s New in MPMI? Seminar. You can find a recording of his seminar here.

Plant Cell Wall Composition and Disease Resistance: A Journey across Novel Mechanisms of Plant Immunity

Submitted by Laura Bacete and Antonio Molina

Fig​ure 1. Schema of Arabidopsis thaliana cell wall composition and wall roles in disease resistance responses. Primary cell walls are composed of cellulose and different pectins and hemicelluloses. Secondary cell walls are reinforced with lignin. Cell wall function in disease resistance to pathogens as a first passive physical barrier that pathogens need to overcome for infection progression, but also as a constantly monitored dynamic structure whose integrity is perceived by different molecular systems. The plant cell wall is also a source of metabolites and proteins with direct activity against pathogens and of signaling molecules, such as damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), that trigger immunity responses.

Traditionally, the plant cell wall has been considered simply a physical defensive barrier against pathogens. However, this outdated view has evolved to a novel concept that considers the plant cell wall as a dynamic structure regulating different processes of plant immunity and development (Figure 1​) (Bacete et al. 2018). Recently, we have published in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (MPMI) our last findings about the impact of the alteration of the cytokinin-responsive Arabidopsis Response Regulator 6 (ARR6) gene expression on the modulation of plant cell wall composition and disease resistance responses (Bacete et al. 2020). Here, we describe the story of how we reached this fascinating discovery, and how our research group, initially focused on A. thaliana resistance to necrotrophic fungi, started a journey that led us to identify a novel mechanism of plant immunity and to determine the relevance of plant cell wall composition in disease resistance. This journey led us to the conviction that plant cell wall-mediated immunity is a key and dynamic component of plant disease resistance against necrotrophic fungi—our initial pathogens of interest—but also against all the plant pathogens we have studied.

The complexity of the plant immune system

The complexity of the plant immunity system, comprising different mechanisms of resistance, was well known at the beginning of this century. These mechanisms include diverse molecular monitoring systems that perceive stresses-derived signals, as well as microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) and effectors (avirulent proteins) from pathogens, which trigger specific resistance responses upon perception by specific plant receptors (Jones and Dangl 2006). The evolution of such monitoring systems has enabled plants to fine-tune their defensive responses and to adapt their physiological response to environmental condition changes. Also, it is well known that plant defensive responses are mediated by phytohormones, like salicylic acid (SA), ethylene (ET), and jasmonic acid (JA), which were initially described as mainly required for plant resistance to biotrophic (SA) and nectrotrophic (ET and JA) pathogens, respectively (Robert-Seilaniantz et al. 2011). In recent years, other phytohormones have been added to this list of “defensive hormones.” These include abscisic acid (ABA), brassinosteroids, gibberellins, auxins, and more recently cytokinin, as shown in recent articles and in our MPMI paper (Bacete et al. 2020; Argueso et al. 2012; Gupta et al. 2020).

Two decades ago, the plant cell wall was considered in the plant immunity field to be simply a structure displaying a physical defensive role—a sort of passive barrier with no essential function in a complex plant immune system. Nevertheless, it had been demonstrated by several groups that the plant cell wall is a dynamic and highly regulated structure with several important functions for plant growth and development. All plant cells have a primary plant cell wall that is mainly composed of cellulose—which is the principal load-bearing component—pectins, hemicelluloses, and structural glycoproteins. In addition, cells that have completed their cellular expansion and need to strengthen their structure for functional reasons (e.g., to form vessel or fiber cells) generate a secondary cell wall that also includes lignin. The plant cell wall is a prominent structure to manage mechanical stresses caused by either internal (e.g., due to osmotic pressure) or external (e.g., caused by pathogen attack) physiological/environmental changes. Therefore, an important question arose several years ago: how do plants perceive these changes in their cell walls? In recent years, the status of the plant cell wall has been shown to be constantly monitored through a series of cell wall integrity (CWI) surveillance mechanisms (Bacete and Hamann 2020), and the wall has been found to be a source of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), mainly of carbohydrate-based compositions, that trigger immune responses (Bacete et al. 2018, 2020).

Exploring Arabidopsis thaliana disease resistance to necrotrophic fungi: The initials

Early in the foundation of our lab at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM, Spain), we performed several screenings of A. thaliana mutant collections and quantitative trait loci (QTL) analyses of ecotypes to identify novel genetic components of plant resistance to necrotrophic fungi. The reason for this initial objective was that the genetic determinants of plant resistance to this type of fungi were understudied, despite the fact that necrotrophic fungi cause important yield loses in agriculture. We selected for these initial screenings several strains from different necrotrophic fungi species, but we particularly focused on one strain that had been serendipitously isolated by Brigitte Mauch-Mani (Neuchatel University, Switzerland) from Arabidopsis plants growing under her lab conditions (Ton and Mauch-Mani 2004). This necrotrophic fungal strain was an ascomycete from Plectosphaerella cucumerina, which was very easy to handle in the lab and, more importantly, gave very reproducible necrotrophic symptoms in different A. thaliana genotypes. We named this isolate PcBMM to recognize the contribution of Brigitte Mauch-Mani to its discovery. PcBMM transformed our scientific goals, changed our view of the genetic determinants of plants resistance to necrotrophic fungi, and revealed an unexpected and relevant contribution of the plant cell wall to immunity. This exciting journey with Plectospherella has recently reached an important milestone with the publication in MPMI of the first sequence and annotation of the genomes and transcriptomes of three Plectospherella strains (including PcBMM) with different lifestyles on A. thaliana genotypes (Muñoz-Barrios et al. 2020).

In our early screenings with PcBMM we identified several A. thaliana cell wall mutants, like ern1/irx1/lew2 (impaired in AtCESA8 required for secondary cell wall cellulose synthesis), displaying broad-spectrum resistance to PcBMM and other necrotrophic and biotrophic pathogens and enhanced resistance to abiotic stresses. This initial finding was shocking, but exciting, since it was not in accordance with the classical view of plant disease resistance to necrotrophic pathogens. Intriguingly, the molecular bases of irx1 resistance did not seem to be dependent on canonical defensive pathways (e.g., the expected ET and JA for necrotrophic fungi), but instead it relied on novel mechanisms of immunity involving ABA signaling and antimicrobial compounds like tryptophan-derived metabolites and peptides (Hernandez-Blanco et al. 2007). Moreover, in additional screening aimed at deciphering PcBMM genetic resistance, we frequently found A. thaliana mutants with enhanced susceptibility to PcBMM and additional pathogens, which showed alterations in their plant cell wall composition. Among these mutants were erecta (er), impaired in a receptor-like protein kinase, and agb1, defective in the beta-subunit of Arabidopsis heterotrimeric G protein, that display different biochemical alterations in their cell wall composition compared with that of wild-type plants (Delgado-Cerezo et al. 2012; Llorente et al., 2005; Sánchez-Rodríguez et al. 2009; Torres et al. 2013). These and additional exciting results suggested that ER and heterotrimeric G proteins play roles in regulating novel mechanisms of disease resistance mediated by the cell wall in addition to their function in plant development (Sánchez-Rodríguez et al. 2009). The function of ER-mediated pathway in immunity was further corroborated by the characterization of the role in plant immunity of YODA, a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase (MAPK3) functioning downstream of ER in plant development (Bergmann 2004). YODA has been found to regulate broad-spectrum disease resistance through noncanonical defensive mechanisms involving cell wall-mediated resistance and the up-regulation of the expression of specific protein receptors and peptidic DAMPs (Sopeña-Torres et al. 2018; Téllez et al. 2020).

Exploring the contribution of the plant cell wall to A. thaliana immunity: The ARR6 example

Figure 2. Selection of cell wall mutants and biased resistance screening performed. Collection of cell wall mutants tested included well-known mutants and putative cell wall mutants impaired in either genes encoding proteins implied in the biosynthesis or remodeling of plant cell wall or genes expressed during cell wall biogenesis processes (Pesquet et al. 2005). The resistance of these mutants to four different type of pathogens with different colonization styles was determined. A significant number of mutants showed altered susceptibility/resistance to one or more pathogens compared with wild-type plants (additional details provided in Molina et al. 2020).​

The findings described above led us to the conviction that plant cell wall composition and integrity were essential components of A. thaliana immunity. To explore this regulatory effect of the plant cell wall on A. thaliana immunity and resistance to different type of pathogens, we decided to follow a biased mutant screening approach and to perform a detailed analysis of the resistance to different pathogens of a collection of selected Arabidopsis mutants impaired in either the primary or secondary cell wall (Molina et al. 2020). In this biased screening (Figure 2), an astonishingly high number of cell wall mutants showed altered susceptibility/resistance to one or more of the pathogens tested compared with wild-type plants, further supporting the key contribution of the plant cell wall to disease resistance (for further details are provided in Molina et al. 2020).

One of the cell wall mutants with disease resistance alterations was impaired in the ARR6 gene (arr6), and it is characterized in our MPMI paper (Bacete et al. 2020). Our first observations on two mutant alleles (arr6-3 and arr6-2) of ARR6 indicated that they both had alterations in their cell wall composition and in their resistance to different pathogens with different colonization styles. ARR proteins have been described as components of the cytokinin signaling pathway, which has previously been involved in the modulation of some disease-resistance responses (Argueso et al. 2012; Gupta et al. 2020). In our work recently published in MPMI (Bacete et al. 2020), we describe a previously unknown function of ARR6 by showing that ARR6 is actually a regulator of cell wall composition and of disease resistance responses against different pathogens causing important diseases, like the necrotrophic fungus PcBMM and the vascular bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum. arr6 mutants, which do not have functional versions of the ARR6 gene, are more resistant to PcBMM fungus but more rapidly and intensely develop the disease symptoms caused by the vascular bacterium R. solanacearum. In contrast, plants that display higher levels of ARR6 expression (by transgenic overexpression) than wild-type plants or arr6-3 (e.g., overexpressor and complementation lines, respectively) are more resistant to the bacteria but more susceptible to the fungus. Transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses revealed that, in arr6 plants, canonical disease-resistance pathways, like those activated by defensive phytohormones, were not altered, whereas immune responses triggered by microbe-associated molecular patterns were slightly enhanced. As in previous research approaches performed in the lab, our findings of the bases of the resistance were again original and out of the canons, which is something that always triggers researchers’ curiosity, making our work even more intriguing and exciting, but also risky for publication. Moreover, the characterization of ARR6-mediated resistance reinforced our view of plant cell wall relevance in the modulation of specific immune responses and confirmed the opportunities provided by plant cell wall mutants for the identification of novel and uncharacterized mechanisms of plant immunity.

We next hypothesized that some cell wall component could be released from arr6 walls due to their observed alteration in composition and that this compound might function as DAMP that will be recognized by a plant receptor, triggering immunity. However, cell walls are very complex, so we had to obtain simpler cell wall fractions enriched in main biochemical components. Remarkably, pectin-enriched cell wall fractions from arr6 plants activated more intense immune responses than similar wall fractions from wild-type plants, suggesting that the arr6 pectin fraction is enriched in wall-related DAMPs. The next step we performed in this research area was the purification of these putative DAMP molecules from arr6 pectin fractions. Actually, we have recently described the characterization of the immune-active pectin fractions of arr6 by further fractionation of it by chromatographic means (Mélida et al. 2020). These analyses pointed to the role of pentose-based oligosaccharides in triggering plant immune responses in arr6. Specifically, we have identified pentose-based oligosaccharide structures, such as beta-1,4-xylooligosaccharides, with specific degrees of polymerization carrying arabinose decorations. Remarkably, these novel DAMPs, which trigger immune responses in Arabidopsis, also activate immune responses in crops and confer enhanced disease resistance to pathogens, including necrotrophic fungi (Mélida et al. 2020). The characterization of these new cell wall-derived plant DAMPs represents the culmination of a long journey across novel mechanisms of plant immunity in our lab that led us to determine the significant and specific contribution of plant cell wall composition in disease resistance. This has been a journey that we initiated with the necrotrophic fungus PcBMM and that has taken us to the identification of novel, noncanonical, cell wall-mediated mechanisms of immunity of relevance for different sets of pathogens. We sincerely guess that our research can contribute to the development of innovative crop protection technologies to reach the desire goal of more sustainable agriculture that will feed the growing human population.


Sep 10
InterConnections: Get to Know Member Dawei Xin

The June 2020 Editor’s pick for MPMI is “RNA Sequencing-Associated Study Identifies GmDRR1 as Positively Regulating the Establishment of Symbiosis in Soybean” with corresponding authors Dawei Xin and Qingshan Chen from the Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, China. To read more about Dawei you can find his bio here.​

RNA Sequencing-Associated Study Identifies GmDRR1 as Positively Regulating the Establishment of Symbiosis in Soybean

Submitted by Dawei Xin and Qingshan Chen

Soybean is one of the most important crops in the world, supplying protein and oil to humans and animals. Symbiosis is a special characteristic of legumes that allows them to fix nitrogen from the air. However, chemical nitrogen fertilization is still the main source utilized in legume crops, which causes serious pollution in the environment. Too little is understood about the mechanism of symbiosis, which impedes utilization of symbiosis in agriculture. The benefits of symbiosis encourages us to become more familiar with the molecular mechanism of legume–Rhizobium interaction. The genes of Rhizobium sp. and host both play a pivotal role in symbiosis establishment.

In recent decades, type effector (T3E) was found and identified as playing a pivotal role in nodule formation. To date, there is no gene has been identified in a legume host that directly interacts with T3E. Our lab has been working to identify the genes that might interact with T3E and the soybean response mechanism to Rhizobium spp. Considering the complex genetic background of soybean, we selected a genetic population to identify the genes underlying symbiosis and the response to T3E. Chromosome segment substituted lines (CSSL) with wild soybean genomic sequences are an ideal genetic material to locate quantitative trait loci (QTL) and mining genes in the target chromosome regions.

Identifying special soybean lines

To identify the chromosome region that might underlie symbiosis and the response to T3E during symbiosis establishment, we screened the CSSL population, first to compare the nodule-related phenotype and genotype of CSSL. After inoculation with wild-type Rhizobium sp., two lines of CSSL were identified. One line can form more nodules than the recurrent parent, and other can form fewer nodules than the recurrent parent. This supports the hypothesis that substituted chromosome segments play a role in the identified phenotype. The substituted segments on the chromosome were detected by resequencing the genome of two identified lines of CSSL and the recurrent parent.

Mining the response of candidate genes to Rhizobium sp. and T3E

As there are no single substituted segments on the chromosome, we needed to identify the target region to reduce our workload. To accomplish this, we used CSSL to map the QTL underlying nodule number after inoculation with a wild Rhizobium sp. and derived T3E mutant. At the same time, RNA sequencing was performed to detect the gene expression pattern located in the substituted segment of chromosome. We used a wild-type Rhizobium sp. and T3E mutant strain to inoculate the two identified CSSL lines and the recurrent parent. Many different expression genes were found. To delimitate the region on the chromosome, we used the QTL assistant to find the chromosome region. Because the length of substituted segments can be identified by genomic resequencing and molecular analysis, we can narrow down the chromosome region to a shortened region. This was a great help to us in identifying the candidate for further work. Now, several candidate genes that can interact with T3E have been identified, and we have designed a more detailed experiment to elucidate the interaction mechanism.

We are pleased that our work was accepted for publication by MPMI and that we could share our findings with other researchers who we followed during manuscript preparation.

We duly acknowledge funding from the Nature Science Foundation of China and the graduate students of our lab at Northeast Agricultural University.

Sep 10
InterConnections: Get to Know Member Li-Na Yang

The July 2020 Editor’s pick for MPMI is, “Phytophthora infestans AVR2 Effector Escapes R2 Recognition Through Effector Disordering,” in which Li-Na Yang and co-authors explore the role of intrinsic disorder in the development of pathogenicity in the RXLR AVR2 effector of P. infestans. Their results support the notion that intrinsic disorder is important for the effector function of pathogens and demonstrate that SLiM-mediated protein–protein interaction in the C-terminal effector domain might contribute greatly to the evasion of resistance-protein detection in P. infestans.

02LYangPhoto.jpgPhytophthora infestans AVR2 Effector Escapes R2 Recognition Through Effector Disordering​

Name: Li-Na Yang

Current Position: Associate professor at the College of Plant Protection, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fujian, China.

Education: B.Sc. and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fujian, China.

Non-scientific Interest: Traveling, walking, reading, gardening, and cooking.

Brief-bio: I am currently an associate professor at the College of Plant Protection, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University. I worked with Professor Jiasui Zhan for nearly 10 years on the population genetics, molecular genetics, and evolutionary ecology of the devastating potato pathogen Phytophthora infestans. I am interested in the effects of ecological (biotic or abiotic) factors on the evolutionary potential and trajectory of pathogen ecological and life history traits, such as fungicide resistance and pathogenicity governed by effector genes, etc. For biotic factors, my research mainly focuses on host diversification and host resistance. We find that compared with monoculture, the mixture of different potato cultivars significantly slows down the evolution of pathogenicity and fungicide resistance of P. infestans, and late blight epidemic in the field is also significantly reduced. This result has been used to guide commercial production of potato in the Yunan and Guizhou areas of Southwest China with great success. For abiotic factors, my research mainly focuses on the impacts of climate change, such as increasing atmosphere temperature and carbon dioxide, on the evolution of plant pathogens. We find temperature-mediated evolution of P. infestans in individual genes (e.g. effector genes) and at the organism level. In the laboratory, P. infestans can adapt to changed experimental temperature quickly, and the spatial differentiation of fungicide tolerance increases under elevated experimental temperatures. We also find that the pathogenicity of P. infestans significantly increases as carbon dioxide concentration increases. These results indicate late blight will become more difficult to control under future climate conditions of higher atmosphere temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations.

Sep 10
MPMI Journal Goes Gold Open Access to Bring Its Science to the World

IS-MPMI represents an international community—the last IS-MPMI Congress was attended by scientists from more than 50 countries—and this diversity is reflected in the authorship of articles in the MPMI journal. Changes in the publishing landscape, both in the ways authors publish their work and the ways readers access content, as well as a growing awareness that research should be available to teachers, students, and colleagues worldwide, have led to the decision to turn MPMI into a gold open access journal. Beginning January 2021, all MPMI content will be fully available to everyone.

Jeanne Harris, MPMI editor-in-chief, envisions the journal as a place to tackle the big questions in molecular plant–microbe interactions. “We want to position MPMI to be a place where the community discusses these big questions. Not just what we’ve done but looking forward at the big questions that face us.” She sees this move to open access as a way to foster inclusion, drawing all voices into the discussion.

Since Harris took over as editor-in-chief in 2018, MPMI has transitioned from being a print publication to online-only delivery and made all technical advances freely available, which were important first steps toward becoming open access. “Plants live all over the world; microbes live all over the world,” Harris said. “When we look at the people who make up our IS-MPMI community, we see that the members are from all over the world, and not every place has subscription access. It was clear that MPMI had to go open access to reach our entire community.”

According to Krishna Subbarao, chair of The American Phytopathological Society’s Publications Board, it was “especially vital that MPMI move to open access because many of the journals in the molecular area were already gold open access,” and some European authors were prevented from publishing in journals without full open access due to constraints from funding agencies or institutions. Subbarao states, “We hope that the European authors will welcome this change and that this move to gold open access attracts authors from every part of the world.”

MPMI currently makes both resource announcements and technical advances open access so that they can be a resource for the community, and review articles are freely available for a month. However, Harris has championed the move toward fully open access. “These ideas and the findings really should be shared,” she said.

With the gold open access launch in 2021, the MPMI journal will become more accessible than ever and can serve as a community meeting place for all. Authors are encouraged to submit their articles now to be included in the first open access issues. Articles submitted today will be openly available for everyone in our community as they are published. Learn more about the journal.

Sep 10
Thoughts about the What’s New in MPMI! Virtual Seminar Series

The free virtual seminar series What’s New in MPMI! launched on June 10 with a presentation by Matt Neubauer from the Roger Innes lab. Since then, there have been six installments in the series, each featuring a 25-minute talk and a Q&A session. This series was conceptualized and is hosted by Jeanne Harris, the editor-in-chief of MPMI, who shares her thoughts on the value of virtual seminars for the IS-MPMI community.

I think there’s a real hunger for connection right now. We’ve always been a far-flung society with members across the world, but with the increased isolation that the pandemic brings, along with the cancellation of conferences, seminars, and classes, people really want to connect, learn about new findings, and think about new ideas. Many IS-MPMI members do not have colleagues at their home institutions who share their interests in plant–microbe interactions. For us, attending conferences or hosting colleagues from other institutions gives us a chance not only to learn new things but also to develop our own thinking.

I’m excited about the What’s New in MPMI! virtual seminar series, because it provides new ways for the IS-MPMI community to connect and for MPMI to engage with readers and authors. The interaction is outside the regular publication cycle and is much more personal, giving readers and listeners the chance to directly interact with the authors. Listeners can ask questions and learn more about how the research happened and where it’s going, as well as technical details. Presenting a published MPMI paper in this way is also exciting for authors as they get to hear what readers think and talk directly to people all over the world about their findings.

This series also strives to build connections within our international community and to foster inclusion. Because our seminar series is freeno subscription, membership, or registration fee is requiredit is accessible to everyone. We are alternating presentations between two times to appeal to different time zones. As a result, we draw participants from around the globe to each live session.

Because each session is recorded, it makes it possible for people in different time zones or who have conflicting commitments to access the entire seminar, including the extensive Q&A. The recording makes it easier for people for whom English is not a first language, as they can relisten to different sections. The extended Q&A session gives people time to formulate and type questions and opens the opportunity for everyone to engage with the speaker.

To increase the ability of listeners to engage with the MPMI journal, each article that is presented is freely available to read through the end of the year, an important step in our transition to making the journal gold open access starting in January 2021! Providing full access to the paper gives listeners a chance to dive more deeply into the data or check out the methods.

Since this series launched, we have hosted six seminars and have more scheduled. We’ve received positive feedback from around the world. People are excited to have a way to interact with the authors, and some have told me that they plan to use the videos as teaching tools in their graduate seminar discussions.

This new venture has been one of the most personally satisfying aspects of being editor-in-chief—opening up the research in MPMI to new audiences and deepening engagement with our community. You can find all the recordings and upcoming seminars here. Please join us!

Sep 10
The MPMI Virtual Seminar Series as a Resource for Online Teaching

With many conferences and regular seminar series cancelled, and many courses being held remotely this fall, the MPMI virtual seminar series, What’s New in MPMI!, is being used by teachers looking for scientific seminars for their students or additional content for a course. Each virtual seminar is given by the author of a recent MPMI article, highlighting that article. Thus, students or faculty wanting more depth can follow the link to the paper itself and dive into the details. All seminars are freely available, and the corresponding papers are open access through the end of the year, when the entire journal is going gold open access. Because all talks are recorded, they can be used throughout the fall semester and are especially helpful for students for whom English is not their first language, who can relisten to especially difficult sections. Recordings of previous talks can be found on the IS-MPMI YouTube channel. The schedule for upcoming seminars is available online here.

Do you use What’s New in MPMI! for your teaching? Tell us how you use it. What have you found most useful? What would you like to hear more about? Use the comments section below to let us know what you think, or contact Jeanne Harris.

Sep 10

Jap​an-US Early Career Showcase: Remodeling of the Plant–Microbe Environment During Disease, Defense, and Mutualism

The 12th Japan-US Seminar in Plant Pathology: Remodeling of the Plant–Microbe Environment During Disease, Defense, and Mutualism will be held online September 28 and 29 and October 5 and 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. (EDT). For more information, contact Adam Bogdanove or Lindsay Triplett at

Call for Nominees for the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences

The NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences recognizes research by a mid-career scientist (defined as up to 20 years since completion of Ph.D. degree) at a U.S. institution who has made an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production. For the purpose of the prize, areas of science with applications to agriculture include plant and animal sciences, microbiology, nutrition and food science, soil science, entomology, veterinary medicine, and agricultural economics. The recipient will be awarded a medal and a $100,000 prize. The prize is endowed through generous gifts from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The nomination deadline is Monday, October 5, 2020. For detailed nomination information, please visit the NAS website.

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