2017 - Issue 1

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Jun 13
IS-MPMI Interactions • Issue 1 • 2017

Welcome to the New Interactions

Welcome to the new IS-MPMI Interactions issue format! This enhanced publication, updated quarterly, will provide members with a glimpse of topic research developments, current events, opinions, and career opportunities.

Get to Know the IS-MPMI Interactions Advisory Team

Learn more about the Advisory Team behind the new format IS-MPMI Interactions.

InterViews: Sophien Kamoun

This InterView with Sophien Kamoun, John Innes Centre, was performed by one of the 2016 IS-MPMI student travel awardees, Jixiang Kong, Gregor Mendel Institute.

Using to Share Science Related to Your Interests

IS-MPMI members are using a tool called “” ( to organize and share recent papers related to their research. In this article, learn how to get started setting up and using your own account.

InterMurals - Oliver Ellingham

Oliver Ellingham, University of Reading, identifying powdery mildew fungus growing on apple trees. Using newly identified molecular markers Oliver has improved the identification accuracy of hundreds of powdery mildew species.

IS-MPMI Interactions


Editor-in-Chief: Dennis Halterman
Staff Editor: Michelle Bjerkness

The deadline for submitting items to the next issue of Interactions is February 23, 2018.
IS-MPMI Interactions is a quarterly publication by the International Society of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
3340 Pilot Knob Rd. • St. Paul, MN 55121
Phone: +1.651.454.7250 • Fax: +1.651.454.0766
E-mail: IS-MPMI HQ Web:
Share views on "hot topics," anecdotal stories about research findings published in the MPMI journal, or science-related events within the community. E-mail Dennis Halterman or submit items online.
Jun 13
Welcome to the New Interactions
reginedennis.jpgWelcome to the new IS-MPMI Interactions issue format! This enhanced publication, updated quarterly, will provide members with a glimpse of topic research developments, current events, opinions, and career opportunities. We are hopeful that Interactions will become a forum for serious (and occasionally less-than-serious) thoughts that stimulate new interactions between members. To achieve this, Interactions has a new editor-in-chief (Dennis Halterman) and a group of distinguished senior advisors: Fred Ausubel, Paola Bonfante, Alan Collmer, Allan Downie, and Dan Klessig.

A major goal of Interactions will be to provide opportunities in particular for our young members to increase their participation and visibility within IS-MPMI. We believe that promoting such participation will have many benefits to their careers. Members just starting out and developing their research program can use Interactions to initiate and foster cooperation and collaboration with others studying similar systems or others who can contribute necessary technical expertise. For those who are searching for a permanent research or teaching position, Interactions will open possibilities to identify compatible career environments and to publish content to demonstrate effective communication of your ideas and opinions. Senior scientists will be able to use Interactions to interact with a broader community of junior scientists and to identify outstanding individuals for possible recruitment into graduate, post-doctoral, or faculty positions.

In order to fulfill our vision and make Interactions a success, we will rely heavily on member participation. We expect the majority of published content to be provided by the IS-MPMI community. Our hope is to make Interactions an accommodating forum for members to share views on “hot topics,” anecdotal stories about research findings published in the MPMI journal, or science-related events within the community. As IS-MPMI is a premier international society, we foresee Interactions as a means to showcase the tremendous diversity within our membership and provide viewpoints on what matters to us most.

If you have ideas for content that you think will be appropriate for publication in Interactions, please contact us by using the online submission form or by e-mail to Are publications in Interactions something you can put on your CV? Of course! Interactions publications will not be peer-reviewed articles per se, but they will be reviewed and edited (possibly) by our advisory board and could be listed as trade-journal or outreach-type articles to demonstrate that you have some writing experience outside of typical research journal formats. So, if you would like to get some experience in writing (PIs should encourage students/post-docs to take advantage of this) and have ideas for potential articles, please reach out to us through the online submission form. We would also like to increase the number of senior advisors to Interactions and hope for volunteers, in particular from countries other than the United States in order to broaden our worldwide presence and provide global insights.

Finally, we expect that the content and layout of the Interactions site will be evolving as we determine what works best to effectively communicate content. Please feel free to provide feedback (both positive and critical are welcome), as it will help us to improve Interactions.

Dennis Halterman, Interactions Editor-in-Chief
Regine Kahmann, IS-MPMI President

Jun 13
Get to Know the IS-MPMI Interactions Advisory Team

Dennis Halterman
Research Geneticist
USDA/ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit
Madison, WI U.S.A.
Joined IS-MPMI in 2001
Current/past positions: EIC of IS-MPMI Interactions 2017-present

Dennis’s research is focused on identifying and characterizing disease resistance genes from wild species relatives of cultivated potato. His research involves a wide range of disciplines that include genomics, molecular biology, bioinformatics, plant pathology, and plant breeding. For the past ten years, a major focus of Dennis’s work has been molecular interactions that condition resistance and susceptibility to the late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans but his also interested in studying resistance to several other important diseases.

Frederick M. Ausubel
Professor of Genetics
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA U.S.A.
Helped establish IS-MPMI in 1990
Editor-in-Chief MPMI 1992-1994

Frederick’s work mostly concerns host-microbe interactions. In the 1970s and 1980s, his laboratory worked on the molecular basis of symbiotic nitrogen fixation. In the mid 1980s, the lab switched to studying bacterial and fungal pathogenesis using the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana as a model host. The overall goal has been to elucidate Arabidopsis immune signaling pathways. The Ausubel lab is currently in the process of closing down as Frederick prepares for retirement in September 2018.


Paola Bonfante
Professor, Plant Biology
Department of Life Science and Systems Biology
University of Torino
Current positions: IS-MPMI Interactions Advisory Team, 2017-present

Paola’s research is focused on the biology of symbiotic associations, mainly mycorrhizas. She has studied the intimate interactions that occur between mycorrhizal fungi and plants, mostly focusing on cell plant re-organization upon AM fungal entry by using cellular and molecular approaches. Applying DNA technologies, early in the nineties, she provided contribution to the knowledge of mycorrhizal diversity in natural and agricultural environments. She has discovered a group of endobacteria which live inside mycorrhizal fungi and may modulate some of the functional traits of their fungal hosts. Her major current projects are focused on rice, wheat, and tomato responses to soil microbiota.


Alan Collmer
Andrew J. and Grace B. Nichols Professor
School of Integrative Plant Science
Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology
Cornell University
Joined IS-MPMI in 1984
Current/past positions: Editorial Advisory Board for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, American Phytopathological Society, 1989-1991; Associate Editor for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, 1987-1996; IS-MPMI Board Secretary 1996-2000

Alan’s research investigates the molecular basis of bacterial virulence in plants, with a focus on protein secretion systems and their traffic. His work in recent years has focused on Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 genomics and the functional interactions among effectors injected into plants by the type III secretion system.


Allan Downie
Professor, Department of Molecular Microbiology
John Innes Centre

Allan has worked for over 35 years on the interactions between rhizobia and legumes. He has a particular interest in how rhizobia use Nod factors to activate developmental programmes in the plant to set up infection structures and to induce nodule morphogenesis. Perception of Nod factors results in the activation of multiple pathways, with higher specificity for infection than for nodule development. Using legume mutants defective for infection he has been involved in the identification of components required for initiation and maintenance of the plant-made infection structures.


Dan Klessig
Professor, Boyce Thompson Institute and School of Integrative Plant Science
Cornell University
IS-MPMI member since 1990

Dan’s research spans the plant and human health fields. During his early career, he focused on DNA tumor viruses, which lead to the discovery of split genes and RNA splicing. In the mid 1980, he initiated a research program in plant pathology, which focused on role of salicylic acid (SA) in plant immunity. In addition to SA, his group identified other important factors which contribute to plant immunity, including nitric oxide, MAP Kinases, cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channels, fatty acid desaturases, and nematode ascarosides. Using the methods and approaches developed to identify SA targets in plants, his group has recently uncovered several new targets in humans, which are involved in many of the most prevalent and devastating diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Natural and synthetic derivatives are also being identified, which are 50-1000 times more potent at inhibiting the disease-associated activities of these targets.

Jun 13
InterViews: Sophien Kamoun

Sophien Kamoun
John Innes Centre

Jixiang Kong
Gregor Mendel Institute

This InterView with Sophien Kamoun, John Innes Centre, was performed by one of the 2016 IS-MPMI student travel awardees, Jixiang Kong, Gregor Mendel Institute.

JIXIANG KONG: What led you to study biology? More specifically plant-pathogen interactions.

SOPHIEN KAMOUN: I grew up with a passion for nature. As a teenager I collected insects and became fascinated by their incredible diversity. Later I took this “hobby” more seriously and I specialized in studying tiger beetles. I even published a few papers on this topic.

After high school in Tunisia, I went to Paris with the firm intention of studying biology and becoming an entomologist. However, I was disappointed by how badly taught zoology was—too much emphasis on taxonomy and little mechanistic thinking. Instead, I became drawn to the more rigorous methods and approaches of molecular biology, and I ended up majoring in genetics. I reconciled this major with my natural history interests by taking multiple modules in evolution and reading a lot on the subject.

Plant pathology came later when I moved from Paris to the University of California-Davis for my Ph.D. The fellowship I received stipulated that I should study plant biology. It wasn’t by choice but rather by accident. But I quickly became engrossed in molecular plant pathology and I really liked that this science involves interactions between multiple organisms. However, for many years I missed a direct connection between the lab work and the field.

JK: If you would not have chosen the topic of plant-pathogen interactions, what would you choose?

SK: Definitely, entomology. I’m still fascinated by insects, especially beetles. I feel we know so little about their biology, especially from a mechanistic angle. They are so diverse and yet most insect research focuses on a few species, such as Drosophila. There are so many fascinating questions, for example, about the evolution of insect behavior and the underlying genes. Also, insects can be important crop pests and disease vectors. This is a very fertile area of research that I highly recommend to early career scientists.

JK: How do you envision large-scale “omics” approaches in studying plant immunity?

SK: Omics are just another tool. They’re powerful tools but they’re still methods we use to answer questions. I advise everyone to frame their research based on questions and then look for the best methods to answer these questions.

This said, genomics has transformed biology in a fundamental way. It’s a new way of doing business. We now have catalogs of plant and pathogen genes, so the challenge is to link genes to function rather than discovering the genes per se. Another key aspect is that genomics is a great equalizer. Model systems are less important than in earlier days. One can make a lot of progress with a genome and a few functional assays. For example, consider the progress made in discovering effectors in obligate parasites. This would have been almost unthinkable in the pre-genomics age. This is why I wish to see more early career scientists explore the diversity of pathogen systems rather than working on established model systems.

JK: Social media is changing the way of communication rapidly. However, the scientific communication on social media is just emerging. How do you see the direction of social media in the future regarding the impact on science? Will social media replace or minimize some conventional communication such as conferences?

SK: Communication is an essential function of being a scientist. We’re not only in the business of producing new knowledge but it’s also our obligation to communicate knowledge to our peers and the public. These days social media became a major medium for communication in science. It’s an efficient way to filter through the incessant flow of information, stay up to date, and broadly broadcast new knowledge. It also enables us to expand our network way beyond traditional colleagues. I interact on Twitter with teachers, farmers, journalists, etc. I also use it, of course, to communicate with colleagues and share information and insights. I also find Twitter immensely entertaining. Scientists have a lot of humor.

I don’t think social media will replace the need for direct contact and interaction between peers. I think we still would want to break off our daily routine and meet in person with colleagues. However, I wish we could start rethinking the format of scientific conferences. Both the fairly detailed oral presentations and poster sessions could be improved if they were combined with some sort of Internet interaction. Twitter is already transforming how scientists interact at conferences but we could do better.

JK: What advice would you provide to young researchers who are in their early scientific career?

SK: Don't follow the herd. Take chances. Look beyond the current trends both in terms of experimental systems and questions, and ask provocative questions.

Jun 13
Using to Share Science Related to Your Interests

By Dennis Halterman, Interactions Editor-in-Chief

If you’re like me, you have a Twitter account but you only use it once in a while. Or maybe you’ve heard about using social media to communicate your science but haven’t yet taken the leap. Setting up work-related social media accounts is relatively easy and, once you have an account set up, you’ll find a wealth of information shared by your fellow scientists (so much, in fact, that it’s difficult to keep up with everything). One aspect of communicating science among fellow scientists is to share recent papers or other news items that you find interesting. I’ve personally noticed several IS-MPMI members use a tool called “” ( to organize and share recent papers related to their research. In this article, I’ll describe how to get started setting up and using your own account.

What is
Basically, it’s a way to publish content that you want to share with others. helps you acquire content and then share it via social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). The purpose of using in our community is primarily to share research articles, but the site is also used by many different disciplines.

Step one: Sign up. Visit the website and set up an account.

Step two: Create a topic. On your dashboard screen (click on your name in the upper right corner and select ‘My Dashboard’), you will have the option to “Create a Topic.” This topic will be curated by you. It helps to choose a topic name that will have general interest, but you can change it later, if needed. Some topics curated by other IS-MPMI members are Plants and Microbes (Kamoun Lab); Plant Pathogenic Fungi (Steve Marek); MycorWeb Plant-Microbe Interactions (Francis Martin); Plant-Microbe Symbiosis (Jean-Michel Ané); TAL Effector Science (Sebastian Schornack); and several others.

Click on “Create a Topic” and name your topic. You have the option to have your topic hidden (only visible to you) or not. Since the purpose of this is to share your content with others, you’ll likely leave this box unchecked. With the free version, you can only choose one topic to curate. You can, of course, pay to upgrade your account, which will allow you to curate more topics. Or, you can unlock features using points earned by becoming more active in your curation, inviting friends, etc.

Step three: Start curating. You can find suggested content by adding keywords, but I found this to be somewhat cumbersome. If you pick general terms like “potato” or “plants,” you’re going to find a lot of junk suggestions. But you can filter the suggestions to just “Articles,” if you want. If you’re looking to scoop research articles, you can add the journal name to the keywords.

When you find content that you’d like to scoop through the keyword search, you can click on the “” button. Here, you’re offered the opportunity to distribute your scoop via social media. On the right-hand side of this window, you can choose a photo to accompany your scoop and the layout of the scoop. In some cases, the photo options are limited, so you can upload your own or delete the photo entirely.

Another useful tool is the bookmarklet. This is an invaluable resource that allows you to add content while you’re browsing. Click on your name on the upper right-hand corner of the page to bring up the menu that contains “Bookmarklet.” On this page, you can drag and drop the button to your bookmark toolbar in your browser window. When you’re browsing articles and find one that you’d like to curate, you can simply click on the bookmarklet and it will format the content for you.

Step four: Follow other curated topics. Have other interests other than your curated topic? Of course you do. If you’d like to follow other people’s topics, go to the search window at the top of the page and search for topics or users inside You can search for people you know are active users or search for a topic like “Plants and Microbes.” This will bring up scoops related to this topic. If you click on the topic (under the name of the person who scooped the content), you’ll have a chance to “follow” this topic by clicking the box in the upper left corner of the page. Now, back on your dashboard page, you can select “My Followed Topics” to find all of these pages. ( autofills some topics. If you’d like to remove them, you can click on the topic and select “unfollow.”)

That’s it! You’re on you’re way to becoming a social media guru and making yourself (and your research) more visible to the community. When you come across content that you’d like to share, simply click on the bookmark button. Or visit other curated pages on topics of interest and “rescoop” content that also fits with your topic of interest.
Jun 13
InterMurals - Oliver Ellingham

As part of the new IS-MPMI Interactions, we would like to include photos of you doing what you do best—science.  Send a photo that best represents your research with a short caption to, and we will include it in the InterMurals section of Interactions.

Oliver Ellingham,
University of Reading, identifying powdery mildew fungus growing on apple trees. Using newly identified molecular markers Oliver has improved the identification accuracy of hundreds of powdery mildew species.


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