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PLP 535

Course Syllabus: Spring 2018

Molecular Genetics of Plant-Pathogen Interactions

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

Kiwamu Tanaka

Guest lecturers:
Daisy (Zhen) Fu   
Cynthia Gleason 
Lee Hadwiger      
Scot Hulbert        
Hanu Pappu        
Andrei Smertenko

Course Objectives:

  1. a) To provide you with an understanding of the biology, physiology, genetics, and biochemistry of interactions between plants and their pathogens
  2. b) To provide you with a good working knowledge of current research tools used to address questions in plant-pathogen interactions
  3. c) 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 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.


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 participation in class discussions 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 papers can be found on the Blackboard Learn Website


We will have two exams, one covering the first half of the class on March 1 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 Blackboard Learn website.


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


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

Date                 Instructor         Topic                                                                          Discussion leader
Jan. 9               Tanaka             Overview of the class
Jan. 11             Tanaka             Brief history of plant pathology and disease triangle
Jan. 16             Tanaka             Strategies of pathogenicity
Jan. 18             Tanaka             Plant immune responses (Part 1: pattern-triggered immunity: PTI)
Jan. 23             Tanaka             Plant immune responses (Part 2: effector-triggered susceptibility: ETS)
Jan. 25             Tanaka             Plant immune responses (Part 3: effector-triggered immunity: ETI)
Jan. 30             Tanaka             Plant hormones in defense responses (jasmonate, salicylate, ethylene, etc.)
Feb. 1               Tanaka             Discussion about the zig-zag model (its limitation and prospective)
Feb. 6               Tanaka             Strategies to prevent plant diseases (biocontrol, chemical control, etc)
Feb. 8               Tanaka             Strategies to prevent plant diseases (genetic engineering)
Feb. 13             Tanaka             Plant-symbiont interactions (nodulation, mycorrhizaion, and others)
Feb. 15             Hadwiger         DNA damage and plant disease resistance
Feb. 20             Tanaka             Genetic study for PTI/ETI
Feb. 22             Tanaka/Jewell              Plant systemic resistance
Feb. 27             Tanaka/Ramachandran  Plant immunity memory
March 1 Midterm examination
March 6           Tanaka             ROS in PTI and ETI
March 8           Tanaka             Discussion paper #1 on ROS in PTI and ETI                              Tanaka
March 13 & 15 Spring Break
March 20         Tanaka             R proteins and ETI
March 22         Tanaka             Disc. Paper #2 on R proteins and ETI                                        Group A
March 27         Hulbert            Gene for gene resistance
March 29         Hulbert            Disc. Paper #3 on effecter targets and disease resistance             Group B
April 3             Gleason           Nematode effectors
April 5             Gleason           Disc. Paper #4 on nematode effectors                                        Group C
April 10           Smertenko       Autophagy and plant immunity
April 12           Smertenko       Disc. Paper #5 on autophagy and immunity                                Group D
April 17           Pappu              Viral RNA silencing
April 19           Pappu              Disc. Paper #6 on Viral RNA silencing                                      Group E
April 24           Zhen                Plant-insect interactions
April 26           Zhen                Disc. Paper #7 on plant-insect interactions                                 Group F
May 2 (Wed)   Final examination (10:10 – 12:10 AM)