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Anna Block

Research Molecular Biologist

Ph.D. in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of Florida (2004)
Masters in Biochemistry
University of Bath, England (2000)

Phone 352-374-5761
Dr. Anna Block
Dr. Block joined the Chemistry Research Unit at USDA-ARS-CMAVE in 2015 and the focus of her research is on the chemical defenses of maize (corn) against insect pests, particularly fall armyworm and corn silk flies. Maize uses a variety of chemicals to defend itself against herbivorous insects both directly by inhibiting insect growth, feeding or attraction and indirectly by attracting predators or parasites. These chemicals include volatile organic compounds, flavonoids, benzoxazinoids and phytoalexins. The Block lab uses co-expression analysis and knowledge-guided approaches to identify genes involved in the production of these chemical defenses. CRISPR/Cas9 and transposon based strategies are then used to isolate maize mutants in these genes to confirm their function and unravel the function of the chemicals they produce. Ultimately this research allows the development of molecular-breeding approaches for the production of maize lines with increased pest resistance. This in turn reduces the production and environmental costs of growing maize. The Block group also studies the impact of abiotic stresses (elevated carbon dioxide, flooding, drought and extreme temperature) on the chemical defenses of maize and the impact these combinatorial stresses have on insect resistance. These studies provide vital knowledge required for the development of breeding and management strategies that are effective in real world "multi-stress" environments.

Block A.K., Vaughan M.M., Schmelz E.A. and Christensen S.A. (2018) "Biosynthesis and function of terpenoid defense compounds in maize (Zea mays)" Planta doi:10.1007/s00425-018-2999-2

Christensen, S.A., Hunter C.T. and Block, A. (2018) "Pesticides on the inside: Exploiting the natural chemical defenses of maize against insect and microbial pests." American Chemistry Society book Roles of Natural Products for Biorational Pesticides in Agriculture 1294:47-68 (doi: 10.1021/bk-2018-1294)

Beck, J.J., Alborn, H., Block, A., Christensen, S.A., Hunter, C.T., Rering, C.C., Seidl-Adams, I., Stuhl, C., Torto, B. and Tumlinson, J.H. (2018) "Interactions among plants, insects, and microbes: Elucidation of inter-organismal chemical communications in agricultural ecology." Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.8b01763.

Latimer, S., Li, Y., Nguyen, T., Soubeyrand, E., Fatihi, A., Elowsky, C., Block, A., Pichersky, E. and Basset, G. (2018) "Metabolic reconstructions identify plant 3-methylglutaconyl-CoA hydratase that is crucial for branched-chain amino acid catabolism in mitochondria." Plant Journal 95(2):358-370.

Block, A., Hunter, C.T., Rering, C., Christensen, S.A. and Meagher, R.L. (2018) "Contrasting insect attraction and herbivore induced plant volatile production in maize." Planta doi: 10.1007/s00425-018-2886-x

Christensen, S.A., Sims, J., Vaughan, M., Hunter, C., Block, A., Willet, D., Alborn, H.T., Huffaker, A. and Schmelz, E. (2018) "Commercial hybrids and mutant genotypes reveal complex protective roles for inducible terpenoid defenses." Journal of Experimental Botany in press

Block, A., Christensen, S.A., Hunter, C.T., and Alborn, H.A. (2017) "Herbivore derived fatty-acid amides elicit reactive oxygen species burst in plants." Journal of Experimental Botany doi:10.1093/jxb/erx449.

Christensen, S.A., Huffaker, A., Sims, J., Hunter, C., Block, A., Vaughan, M., Willet, D., Romero, M., Mylrolie, J.E., Williams, W.P. and Schmelz, E.A. (2017) "Fungal and herbivore elicitation of the novel maize sesquiterpenoid, zealexin A4, is attenuated by elevated CO2." Planta

Basset, G.J., Latimer, S., Fatihi, A., Soubeyrand, E. and Block, A. (2017) "Phylloquinone (Vitamin K1): Occurrence, Biosynthesis and Functions." Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry 17(12): 1028-1038.

Vaughan, M.M., Block, A., Christensen, S.A., Allen, L.H. and Schmelz, E.A. (2017) "The effects of climate change associated abiotic stresses on maize phytochemical defenses." Phytochemistry Reviews (doi:10.1007/s11101-017-9508-2).

Block, A., Vaughan, M.M., Christensen, S.A., Alborn, H.T. and Tumlinson. J.H (2017) "Elevated Carbon Dioxide Reduces Emission of Herbivore Induced Volatiles in Zea mays." Plant Cell and Environment 40:1725-1734.

Virdi K.S., Wamboldt Y., Kundariya H., Laurie J.D., Keren I., Kumar K.R., Block A., Basset G., Luebker S., Elowsky C., Day P.M., Roose J.L., Bricker T.M., Elthon T. and Mackenzie S.A. (2016) "MSH1 Is a Plant Organellar DNA Binding and Thylakoid Protein under Precise Spatial Regulation to Alter Development." Molecular Plant 9(2):245-60.

Fatihi A., Latimer S., Schmollinger S., Block A., Dussault P.H., Vermaas W.F., Merchant S.S. and Basset G.J. (2015) "A Dedicated Type II NADPH Dehydrogenase Performs the Penultimate Step in the Biosynthesis of Vitamin K1 in Synechocystis and Arabidopsis." Plant Cell 27(6):1730-41.

Block A., Widhalm J.R., Fatihi A., Cahoon R.E., Wamboldt Y., Elowsky C., Mackenzie S.A., Cahoon E.B., Chapple C., Dudareva N. and Basset G.J. (2014) "The Origin and Biosynthesis of the Benzenoid Moiety of Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q) in Arabidopsis." Plant Cell 26:1938-1948.

Block A., Toruño T.Y., Elowsky C.G., Zhang C., Steinbrenner J., Beynon J. and Alfano J.R. (2014) "The Pseudomonas syringae type III effector HopD1 suppresses effector-triggered immunity, localizes to the endoplasmic reticulum, and targets the Arabidopsis transcription factor NTL9" New Phytologist 201:1358-1370.

Block A., Fristedt R., Rogers S., Kumar J., Barnes B., Barnes J., Elowsky C.G., Wamboldt Y., Mackenzie S.A., Redding K., Merchant S.S. and Basset G.J. (2013) "Functional Modeling Identifies Paralogous Solanesyl Diphosphate Synthases that Assemble the Side Chain of Plastoquinone-9 in Plastids" Journal of Biological Chemistry 288: 27594-27606.

Guo M., Block A., Bryan C.D., Becker D.F. and Alfano J.R. (2012) "Pseudomonas syringae Catalases are Collectively Required for Plant Pathogenesis." Journal of Bacteriology 194: 5054-5064.

Block A. and Alfano J.R. (2011) "Plant Targets for Pseudomonas syringae Type III Effectors: Virulence Targets or Guarded Decoys?" Current Opinion in Microbiology 14:39-46.

Crabill E., Joe A., Block A., van Rooyen J.M. and Alfano J.R. (2010) "Plant Immunity Directly or Indirectly Restricts the Injection of Type III Effectors by the Pseudomonas syringae Type III Secretion system." Plant Physiology 154: 233-244.

Block A., Guo M., Li G., Elowsky C., Clemente T.E. and Alfano J.R. (2010) "The Pseudomonas syringae Type III Effector HopG1 Targets Mitochondria, Alters Plant Development and Suppresses Plant Innate Immunity." Cellular Microbiology 12: 318-330.

Villeneuve J., Block A., Le Bousse-Kerdilès M-C., Lepreux S., Nurden P., Ripoche J. and Nurden A. (2009) "Tissue Inhibitors of Matrix Metalloproteinases in Platelets and Megakaryocytes: A Novel Organization for these Secreted Proteins." Experimental Hematology 37: 849-859.

Block A., Li G., Fu Z.Q. and Alfano J.R. (2008) "Phytopathogen Type III Effector Weaponry and their Plant Targets." Current Opinion in Plant Biology 11: 396-403. (Review)

Auldridge M., Block A., Vogel J.T., Dabney-Smith C., Mila I., Bouzayen M., Magallanes-Lundback M., DellaPenna D., McCarty D.R. and Klee H.J. (2006) "Characterization of Three Members of the Arabidopsis Carotenoid Cleavage Dioxygenase Family Demonstrates the Divergent Roles of this Multifunctional Enzyme Family." Plant Journal 45: 982-993.

Block A., Schmelz E., Jones J. B. and Klee H. J. (2005) "Coronatine and Salicylic acid: the Battle Between Arabidopsis and Pseudomonas for Phytohormone Control." Molecular Plant Pathology 6: 79-83.

Block A., Schmelz E., O'Donnell P.J., Jones J.B. and Klee H.J. (2005) "Systemic Acquired Tolerance to Virulent Bacterial Pathogens in Tomato." Plant Physiology 138: 1481-1490.

Schmelz E., Engelberth J., Tumlinson J.H., Block A. and Alborn H.T. (2004) "The Use of Vapor Phase Extraction in Metabolic Profiling of Phytohormones and Other Metabolites." Plant Journal 39: 790-808.

O'Donnell P., Schmelz E., Block A., Miersch O., Wasternack C., Jones J.B. and Klee H.J. (2003) "Multiple Hormones Act Sequentially to Mediate a Susceptible Tomato Pathogen Defense Response." Plant Physiology 133: 1181-1189.

Current Lab Members

Dr. Hoang Tang
Dr. Hoang Tang
(Support Scientist)
Jeniveve Howard
Jenivive Howard
(Biological Science Aid)
Dorothea Hopkins Dorothea Hopkins
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Alexander Hoang Alexander Hoang
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Samantha McDonald Samantha McDonald
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Alex Llanos
Alex Llanos
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Jorrel Mendoza
Jorrel Mendoza
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Amber Perez
Amber Perez
(Undergraduate Researcher)
David Berryman
David Berryman
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Jorrel Mendoza
Drake Rose
(Undergraduate Researcher)