An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Deciphering the cyst nematode parasitic program by uncovering how their virulence is orchestrated


Plant parasitic nematodes represent a significant group of plant pathogens that threaten current and future food security. Among them, the cyst nematodes target some of the most important crop species (tomato, potato) and cause up to 80% losses. European regulations prohibit the future use of many effective nematicides. We must improve our understanding of the virulence of the cyst nematodes to identify new targets for a sustainable biotechnological control of these pests. Here, I will use my experiences gained on plant-fungal interactions to address a major question in plant-nematode interactions: how is plant-parasitism orchestrated at the molecular level? To be virulent, cyst nematodes must inject “effector” proteins into the plant. These effectors are primarily produced in either the nematode’s dorsal or sub-ventral glands. Hundreds of these dorsal gland effectors are unified by a six base-pair non coding DNA motif, termed the “DOG box”. In a recent effort, a transcription factor that can recognize the DOG-box was identified, termed the “DOG box reader”. This discovery is the first tangible insight into the regulation of plant-nematode parasitism and opens the possibility to explore a new area of research. However, I recognize that the DOG box and its corresponding reader are only one part of the jigsaw puzzle. To complete the picture, in depth and breadth, I need to know: How does the DOG box reader work in vivo, and does it work alone? What are the genetic signatures and readers of other glands and at other times? To what extent are regulatory mechanisms conserved between cyst nematode species? I expect that successful completion of this fellowship will launch my independent academic career, drive forward the state-of the-art with a holistic “spatio-temporal” view of how plant-nematode parasitism is orchestrated at the molecular level, and provide a basis to explore sustainable solutions for improved food security, in line with the Horizon2020 programme.

The Chancellor Masters and Scholarsof The University of Cambridge
Start date
End date
Funding Source
Project number