Research Molecular Biologist
Dr. Wei Wei
Research Plant Pathologist
Phytoplasmas are insect-transmitted, cell wall-less bacteria that parasitize plant phloem sieve elements. Nearly a thousand diverse plant species are known to be susceptible to phytoplasma infections and develop diseases with abnormal growth patterns.
Our research mainly focuses on interaction between phytoplasma and host plants, and identification of molecular target for disease management. We discovered that phytoplasma infection can derail genetically preprogrammed plant meristem fate and modify plant morphology and architecture. Our findings open an avenue toward understanding pathological alterations in patterns of plant growth and development thus aiding in identification of molecular targets for disease control and symptom alleviation. The findings also raise a tantalizing possibility for using phytoplasma as a tool to dissect the course of normal plant development and to modify plant morphogenesis by manipulating meristem fate.
Our research also focuses on the detection, identification and classification of phytoplasmas. We established computer-simulated DNA fingerprinting method, and discovered and characterized known and unknown phytoplasma strains and diseases of domestic and international importance. Our research is important for agriculture and forest industries and quarantine agencies of the U.S. and foreign governments.