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Kiwamu Tanaka

Assistant Professor

Kiwamu Tanaka
Office: Johnson Hall 355
Lab: Johnson Hall 354/358/370

Office: (509) 335-6418
Lab: (509) 335-5813
Fax: (509) 335-9581

Lab website:

Research Specialty and Interests

Plants are continuously exposed to various stresses caused by changes in the environment and attacks by other organisms, i.e., abiotic and biotic stresses. Therefore, plants require sophisticated surveillance systems to detect potentially life-threatening events by recognizing danger signals. Indeed, plants have evolved a large number of receptor kinases, most of which are likely involved in the response to different stresses. These receptors recognize not only exogenous, enemy-derived molecules but also endogenous molecules from own damaged cells and tissues as danger signals, referred to as damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Plants use DAMPs for damaged-self recognition to evoke immune responses and damage healing.

Extracellular ATP is one of the DAMP signals in both animals and plants. Although ATP is well-known as the energy currency molecule in the living cell, once ATP is released into the extracellular space following cellular damage, it acts as a DAMP signal. Our research focuses on the function of this DAMP signal for in-depth understanding of plant defense mechanisms against pathogen and insect attacks. Based on our research, we would further like to determine how we can improve plant growth and vigor and therefore increase crop yields.

We also focus on a project to implement integrated control strategies for potato powdery scab disease, which has in recent decades insidiously spread in many regions where potatoes are grown, including most potato production areas in Washington State. Typical symptoms are cosmetic damage on the skin of potato tubers and the formation of root galls, which reduce nutrient and water uptake. Moreover, the powdery scab pathogen vectors a virus, Potato mop-top virus (PMTV) which causes plant growth suppression and internal tuber necrosis. Most importantly, PMTV is an impediment to foreign trade. The objectives of this project are (1) to develop a diagnostic method to survey powdery scab infestation on farms, (2) to isolate and apply novel plant defense inducers (i.e., PAMPs or DAMPs) derived from infected potato roots, and (3) to improve grower education about the powdery scab disease. This work is important because current management of the disease relies heavily on fungicides and soil fumigations that are only partially effective against powdery scab, and are expensive and risky to applicators and the environment.

Professional Experience

  • Assistant professor, Department of Plant Pathology, Washington State University (2014-present)
  • Research Scientist, Division of Plant Sciences, University of Missouri (2011-2014)
  • Post-doctoral fellow, Division of Plant Sciences, University of Missouri (2006-2011)


  • Ph.D. United Graduate school of Agricultural Sciences, Kagoshima University, Japan (2005)
  • M.S. Graduate school of Agriculture, Kagoshima University, Japan (2002)
  • B.S. Department of Agriculture, Kagoshima University, Japan (2000)


  • Elected as a full member in Sigma Xi (2012)
  • The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)
  • American Phytopathological Society (APS)

Selected Publications

(See full publication list)

  • Jewell JB, Sowders JM, He R, Willis MA, Gang DR, Tanaka K (2019) Extracellular ATP shapes a defense-related transcriptome both independently and along with other defense signaling pathways. Plant Physiol. 179: 1144-1158 doi:10.1104/pp.18.01301
  • DeShields JB, Bomberger RA, Woodhall JW, Wheeler DL, Moroz N, Johnson DA, Tanaka K (2018) On-site molecular detection of soil-borne phytopathogens using a portable real-time PCR system. J. Vis. Exp. e56891 doi:10.3791/56891
  • Tripathi D, Zhang T, Koo AJ, Stacey G, Tanaka K (2018) Extracellular ATP acts on jasmonate signaling to reinforce plant defense. Plant Physiol. 176: 511-523 doi:10.1104/pp.17.01477
  • Moroz N, Fritch KR, Marcec MJ, Tripathi D, Smertenko A, Tanaka K (2017) Extracellular alkalinization as a defense response in potato cells. Front. Plant Sci. 8: 32 doi:10.3389/fpls.2017.00032
  • Nguyen CT, Tanaka K, Cao Y, Cho W-H, Xu D, Stacey G (2016) Computational analysis of the ligand binding site of the extracellular ATP receptor, DORN1. PLoS One 11: e0161894 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161894
  • Hadwiger LA, Tanaka K (2015) EDTA a novel inducer of pisatin, a phytoalexin indicator of the non-host resistance in peas. Molecules 20: 24-34 doi:10.3390/molecules20010024
  • Choi J,* Tanaka K,* Cao Y, Qi Y, Qiu J, Liang Y, Lee SY, Stacey G (2014) Identification of a plant receptor for extracellular ATP. Science 343: 290-4 *equal contribution doi:10.1126/science.343.6168.290
  • Liang Y, Cao Y, Tanaka K, Thibivilliers S, Wan J, Choi J, Kang CH, Qiu J, Stacey G (2013) Nonlegumes respond to rhizobial Nod factors by suppressing the innate immune response. Science 341: 1384-7 doi:10.1126/science.1242736
  • Wan J, Tanaka K, Zhang X, Son GH, Brechenmacher L, Nguyen THN, Stacey G (2012) LYK4, a lysin motif receptor-like kinase, is important for chitin signaling and plant innate immunity in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 160: 396-406 doi:10.1104/pp.112.201699
  • Tanaka K, Nguyen TC, Libault M, Cheng J, Stacey G (2011) Enzymatic activity of the soybean ecto-apyrase GS52 is essential for stimulation of nodulation. Plant Physiol. 155: 1988-98 doi:10.1104/pp.110.170910
  • Tanaka K, Gilroy S, Jones AM, Stacey G (2010) Extracellular nucleotide signaling in plants. Trends Cell Biol. 20: 601-8 doi:10.1016/j.tcb.2010.07.005 [Cover of the issue]
  • Tanaka K, Swanson SJ, Gilroy S, Stacey G (2010) Extracellular nucleotides elicit cytosolic free calcium oscillations in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 154: 705-19 doi:10.1104/pp.110.162503



Pl_P 535 Molecular Genetics of Plant and Pathogen Interactions
Pl_P 499 Special Problems
MPS 570 Advanced Topics in Molecular Plant Sciences