IS-MPMI > COMMUNITY > Interactions > Posts > InterStellar: Regine Kahmann Elected as Foreign Member of the Royal Society
Jun 16
InterStellar: Regine Kahmann Elected as Foreign Member of the Royal Society

Regine Kahmann’s election as Foreign Member of the Royal Society constitutes recognition of her outstanding scientific achievements. She served as director of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology until 2019, and also served as the IS-MPMI president from July 2016 to July 2019. 

What area(s) of molecular plant–microbe interactions do you feel your research has impacted most? 

I believe the demonstration that the connection between mating and virulence in smut fungi is achieved by combinatorial control of two homeodomain proteins which dimerize only when they originate from different alleles was a major breakthrough, because it meant that this complex acts as central regulator also of virulence. The second area concerns novel secreted effector proteins which we ended up working with after I spotted that many of the respective genes are arranged in clusters in the genome and for which we subsequently showed by generating deletions that many of these clusters impacted on virulence. And the third area is effector translocation to the host, where we think we have identified the machinery for this that is used by smut fungi (and still struggle to publish this). 

What advice do you have for young scientists aspiring to achieve the level of science that has major impact? 

Do not only thrive for low hanging fruits and do not give up too quickly if something does not work. 

When you were a post-doc, what had the largest influence on your decision to enter your specific research area in your permanent position? Was this a “hot topic” at the time, or did you choose to go in a different direction? 

I switched fields after my postdoc when I had my first independent position and moved from phage work and Escherichia coli to plant microbe interactions. I picked the Ustilago maydis–maize system in the early eighties definitely not because it was a hot topic. The system had been studied by several excellent geneticists but had not advanced to the molecular area. At the time I felt that the phage work would not sustain my scientific career and I found U. maydis and its ability to induce plant tumors simply fascinating. 

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