I wanted to get involved in research so that I can gain experience in a research setting and to get published in the future. I am very interested in understanding the processes behind certain aspects of research in order to help me achieve my career goals.
Root-Knot Nematode and Plant Host Interactions
Root-knot nematodes infect over 2,000 species of plants and are major agricultural pests. They do so by forming intimate relationships with hosts and form unique feeding cells within plant root tissue. The goal of my research is to identify the universal cues nematodes use to initiate parasitism across this broad host range. A list of candidate genes has been developed in the DiGennaro lab and require validation to see what those cues are, including if these factors are part of the plant hosts light or circadian rhythms. The circadian rhythm of nematodes can also be a cue in that root-knot nematodes can initiate parasitism through their biological clock.
I plan to utilize Polymerase Chain reaction (PCR), and quantitative PCR (qPCR) to generate thousands of copies from a section of DNA in order to identify the presence or absence of certain genes and quantify their expression throughout the circadian cycle. I will also use PCR and qPCR to evaluate the nematode’s genotype. These methods also help us understand the relationship between the nematodes and their plant hosts on the genetic level, allowing for a more efficient way of suppressing the nematode’s parasitic abilities rather than constantly applying chemicals. Avoiding chemicals that kill nematodes when they infect plants is ideal due to the evolutionary processes that nematodes go through when these chemicals are introduced. There can be lasting generations of nematodes that are resistant to many chemicals that are meant to kill them due to this, so understanding the nematodes at the genetic level is a more reasonable option in the long run.