College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Department of Plant Pathology

Pl_P 535

Course Syllabus: Spring 2016

Molecular Genetics of Plant-Pathogen Interactions

Plant Pathology 535 – 3 credits; Tu, Th 9:10-10:25



Kiwamu Tanaka



Scot Hulbert

Hanu Pappu

Cynthia Gleason

Hans-Henning Kunz

Daisy (Zhen) Fu

Lee Hadwiger


Course Objectives:

  1. To provide you with a understanding of the biology, physiology, genetics, and biochemistry of interactions between plants and their pathogens
  2. To provide you with a good working knowledge of current research tools used to address questions in plant-pathogen interactions
  3. To provide you with the analytical tools to critically evaluate the scientific literature, design experiments and rigorously test scientific hypotheses of plant-pathogen interactions


Lectures and Discussions: Two 75-minute classroom periods per week. We will not be following a strict lecture format in each time slot but rather will have a mix of lecture and discussion. We would like to keep the course as interactive as possible. There will be 9 – 12 discussion sessions during the semester (depending on final student numbers). These will be led by groups of students. Students will be organized randomly into groups of 5 or 6 at the middle of the semester. Students will be graded based on their level of participation, as a group and as individuals, in these discussions.


Laboratories: This course has no laboratory component


Discussion and Evaluation of Research Papers: We will critically evaluate several research papers throughout the semester dealing with various aspects of plant-pathogen interactions. Discussions will be led by groups of students using an active learning format. You will be expected to participate actively in these discussions and 30% of your grade will be based on discussion participation and your role in facilitating discussion in the class when you are leading the discussion. Students will be selected at random and assigned to each weekly discussion section.  The discussion of each paper will be led by a different group. The group will hand out study questions for the paper at least three days before the paper is discussed in class. The papers will be presented when that topic is being covered in class. The papers can be found on the Blackboard Learn Website


Exams: We will have two exams, one covering the first half of the class on March 3 and one covering the second half on May 5. Each exam will be worth 35% of your grade.


Discussions Groups: Each student will be randomly assigned to a discussion group at the beginning of the semester. Discussion groups will be randomly assigned to topics. The topics will be covered in the order listed in updated versions of the Topic Schedule. The Topic Schedule can be found on the home page of the PLP535 Course, which should be listed on all of your Blackboard Learn website.


References: There is no comprehensive textbook available which is suitable for a course at this level. However, reference material will be placed in the Blackboard Learn Website The additional reading will include more review articles, while most of the discussion papers will be primary research papers. Homework problems will also be used to illustrate basic concepts. These can be found in the Blackboard Learn Website.


Class notes: Class notes for most lectures will be placed on the Blackboard Learn website.


Study Habits: Complete reading assignments prior to class. If the next lecture period is a discussion paper, discuss the study questions with the members of your group and be prepared to discuss them in class. Be sure to ask questions about things you don’t understand during the discussions. Exams will cover information from assigned reading as well as highlights from the discussion papers. Any topics covered in class are potential material for exams.



You will be evaluated in three different ways. Each component is presented as a percentage of your final grade:

  1. general discussion participation, as a group and as an individual: 30%
  2. midterm examination (closed-book, closed-note exam): 35%
  3. final examination (closed-book, closed-note exam): 35%


Students with Disabilities: Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and may need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC). All accommodations MUST be approved through the DRC (Admin Annex Bldg, Room 205). Please stop by or call 509-335-3417 to make an appointment with a disability specialist.


Safety: The Campus Safety Plan, which can be found at, contains a comprehensive listing of university policies, procedures, statistics, and information relating to campus safety, emergency management, and the health and welfare of the campus community. Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for an active shooter incident. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able). Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU ( For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight video ( and visit the WSU safety portal (


Topic schedule (Spring 2016)

Class meets 9:10 – 10:25 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Date                 Instructor         Topic                                                                                                             Discussion leader

Jan. 12             Tanaka             Overview of the class

Jan. 14             Tanaka             Brief history of plant pathology and disease triangle

Jan. 19             Tanaka             Strategies of pathogenicity

Jan. 21             Tanaka             Plant immune responses (Part 1: microbe-triggered immunity)

Jan. 26             Tanaka             Plant immune responses (Part 2: effector-triggered susceptibility)

Jan. 28             Tanaka             Plant immune responses (Part 3: effector-triggered immunity

Feb. 2              Tanaka             Plant responses to pathogens (jasmonate, salicylate, etc.)

Feb. 4              Tanaka             Strategies to prevent plant diseases (biocontrol, chemical control, etc)

Feb. 9              Tanaka             Discussion about the zig-zag model (its limitation and prospective)

Feb. 11             Tanaka             Strategies to prevent plant diseases (genetic engineering)

Feb. 16             Tanaka             Plant-symbiont interactions (nodulation, mycorrhizaion, and others)

Feb. 18             Tanaka             Genetic screening to study MTI and ETI

Feb. 23             Tanaka             Disc. Paper #1 on MTI                                                                                   Moroz

Feb. 25             Tanaka             Disc. Paper #2 on JA vs Necrotroph                                                               Tanaka

March 1           Hadwiger         DNA damage and plant disease resistance

March 3 Midterm examination

March 8           Tanaka             ROS in MTI and ETI

March 10         Tanaka             Discussion paper #3 on ROS in MTI and ETI                                                   Tanaka

March 15 & 17 Spring Break

March 22         Tanaka             R proteins and ETI

March 24         Tanaka             Disc. Paper #4 on R proteins and ETI                                                             Group A

March 29         Pappu              Viral RNA silencing

March 31         Pappu              Disc. Paper #5 on Viral RNA silencing                                                             Group B

April 5             Hulbert            Gene for gene resistance

April 7             Hulbert            Disc. Paper #6 on effecter targets and disease resistance                               Group C

April 12           Zhen                Plant-insect interactions

April 14           Zhen                Disc. Paper #7 plant-insect interactions                                                         Group D

April 19           Gleason           Nematode effectors

April 21           Gleason           Disc. Paper #8 on nematode effectors                                                            Group E

April 26           Kunz                Photosynthesis and immunity

April 28           Tanaka            Disc. Paper #9 on photosynthesis and immunity                                            Group F

May 5  Final examination (10:10 – 12:10 PM)


Discussion papers

Paper #1 (MTI)

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8206


Paper #2 (JA induced resistance against necrotroph)



Paper #3 (ROS in MTI and ETI)



Paper #4 (ETI)

DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3436


Paper #5 (Viral RNA silencing)



Paper #6 (effector targets and disease resistance)



Paper #7 (Plant-insect interaction)



Paper #8 (Nematology)

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1503657112


Paper #9 (photosynthesis and plant immunity)




Department of Plant Pathology, PO Box 646430, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6430, 509-335-9541, Contact Us
© 2017 Washington State University | Accessibility | Policies | Copyright | Log in