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Zhixiang Chen

Botany and Plant Pathology 

  • Professor
Whistler Hall Room B026

Area of Expertise: Plant Molecular Biology - Molecular and cellular basis of plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses.

Due to their sessile nature, plants are constantly exposed to a variety of microbial pathogens and a multitude of environmental stresses and through evolution have developed a battery of disease resistance and stress tolerance mechanisms. The major research interest of our group is to understand the molecular and cellular basis of plant defense and stress responses. Our current research is focused on the following two areas:

1.Transcriptional regulation of plant defense and stress response—Activation of plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses involves differential expression of a large number of plant genes.  To better understand the underlying mechanisms of stress-induced transcriptional reprogramming, we are studying several plant-specific transcription factors including WRKY proteins for their roles and regulation in plant defense and stress responses.

2.Vesicle trafficking in plant defense and stress responses—Intracellular trafficking of membrane-coated vesicles plays an essential role in the communication among different intracellular compartments and between cell and its environment.  In plants, autophagy and multivesicular bodies (MVBs) play an important role in plant resistance to microbial pathogen and tolerance to a broad spectrum of abiotic stresses.  We are studying how these and related vesicle trafficking pathways are regulated during plant stress responses and contribute to the health and wellbeing of plants under biotic and abiotic stresses.

We use the model plant Arabidopsis and crop plant soybean for a majority of our research.

Awards & Honors

(2014) The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014. Thomson Reuters.

(2011) Adjunct Professor. Zhejiang University, China.

(2010) Changjiang Visiting Professor. Zhejiang University, China.

(2006) 2006 Distinguished Alumi Award. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Selected Publications

Zhou, J., Wang, J., Yu, J., & Chen, Z. (2014). Role and regulation of autophagy in heat stress responses of tomato plants.. Frontier in Plant Sciences, 5, 174.

Zhou, J., Yu, J., & Chen, Z. (2014). The perplexing role of autophagy in plant innate immune responses.. Molecular Plant Pathology, 15(6), 637-645.

Zhou, J., Zhang, Y., Qi, J., Chi, Y., Fan, B., Yu, J., & Chen, Z. (2014). The ubiquitin E3 ligase CHIP and NBR1-mediated selective autophagy protect additively against proteotoxicity in plant stress responses.. PLOS Genetics, 10, e1004116.

Wang, F., Shang, Y., Fan, B., & Chen, Z. (2014). Arabidopsis LIP5, a regulator of SKD1 AAA ATPase in multivesicular body biogenesis, is a critical target of pathogen-responsive MAPKs in plant basal defense.. PLOS Pathogens, 10, e1004243.

Chi, Y., Yang, Y., Zhou, Y., Zhou, J., Fan, B., Yu, J., & Chen, Z. (2013). Protein-protein interactions in the regulation of WRKY transcription factors.. Molecular Plant, 6, 287-300.

Zhou, J., Wang, J., Cheng, Y., Chi, Y. J., Fan, B., Yu, J. Q., & Chen, Z. (2013). NBR1-mediated selective autophagy targets insoluble ubiquitinated protein aggregates in plant stress responses. PLoS Genetics, 9, e1003196.

Jiang, Y. P., Cheng, F., Zhou, Y. H., Xia, X. J., Mao, W. H., Shi, K., . . . Yu, J. Q. (2012). Cellular glutathione redox homeostasis plays an important role in brassinosteroid-induced increase in CO2 assimilation in Cucumis sativus. New Phytologist, 194, 932-943.

Cheng, Y., Zhou, Y., Yang, Y., Chi, Y. J., Zhou, J., Chen, J. Y., . . . Chen, Z. (2012). Structural and functional analysis of VQ motif-containing proteins in Arabidopsis and soybean as WRKY-interacting proteins. Plant Physiology, 159, 810-825.

Mao, G., Meng, X., Liu, Y., Zheng, Z., Chen, Z., & Zhang, S. (2011). Phosphorylation of a WRKY transcription factor by two pathogen-responsive MAPKs drives phytoalexin biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell, 23, 1639-1653.

Lai, Z., Li, Y., Wang, F., Cheng, Y., Fan, B., Yu, J. Q., & Chen, Z. (2011). Arabidopsis sigma factor-binding proteins are coactivators of WRKY33 transcription factor in defense against necrotrophic pathogens. Plant Cell, 23, 3824-3841.