Associate Professor - Emeritus
Ph.D., University of Tubingen, 1960
I am interested in the developmental control of the host-parasite relationship between the anther smut fungus Microbotryum violaceum (formerly Ustilago violacea) and its host species in the Caryophyllaceae (pink family). The fungus completes is life cycle by producing teliospores in the anthers of the dioecious host plant, Silene latifolia. Healthy female S. latifolia do not form anthers only male plants (XY chromosome combination) do. In diseased female plants, the fungus overrides the XX chromosome signals and anthers are formed de novo. Our goal is to identify the molecular mechanism involved in the fungus-mediated change in sex expression of the female host plant. Unlike other plant species, sex expression of S. latifolia is not changed by exogenous application of chemicals or environmental factors. We are currently investigating the possible action of siRNA in this fungal-mediated change of sex expression.