Design of biomimetic coatings to understand plant-pathogen relations


Investigate how plant fungal pathogens adhere to and infect plant surfaces.

Plant fungal pathogens have evolved highly sophisticated ways to infect crops and therefore are a threat to global food supply.  On surfaces such as leaves, they first adhere to the surface and seem to know how to grow directionally towards ideal locations for infection before beginning surface penetration. If it were possible to better understand how the fungus senses and responds to the physical and chemical cues present on leaf surfaces, then we could develop strategies for interrupting infection, or develop plants which prevent adhesion or conceal inductive cues.

We propose that artificial surfaces can be constructed to model natural leaf surfaces. By designing surfaces with well-defined chemical and physical properties to which the fungus can respond, we will be able to understand the essential triggers for infection. Additionally, studying the adhesion on surfaces will allow us to understand how secreted chemicals prepare the surface before infection. The overall aim is to replicate essential components of the leaf and assemble these into a biomimetic model.

The goal of this research project is to make biomimetic surface coatings and investigate their biological response. This will involve using surface coating methods on materials such as glass slides, and to visualise the fungi using microscopy. This will provide an opportunity to learn about novel polymerisation techniques, characterisation of surfaces using surface analysis, and to visualise their biological effect

You will develop skills in:

  • Surface coating and analytical techniques
  • Microscopy
  • Fungal pathology

Key References:
Staples R, Hoch H. Physical and chemical cues for spore germination and appressorium formation by fungal pathogens.  Plant Relationships: Springer; 1997. p. 27-40


Tagged in Honours projects - Plant science, Honours projects - Alan Little, Honours projects - Bryan Coad, Honours projects - Vincent Bulone, Honours projects - Agricultural science