Daniela Thomazella


The Staskawicz lab is exploring important crop diseases, such as the devastating bacterial blight of cassava. Cassava is ranked amongst the top ten staple crops in global production, and its starchy tuberous root feeds more than half a billion people in the developing world. Plant infection with the bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. manihotis (Xam) that causes cassava bacterial blight can wipe out entire crops. Xam uses a set of proteins called transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) to reprogram the plant’s genes in order to facilitate their own proliferation. Our lab recently identified two genes in cassava that are targeted by these bacterial TALEs to promote plant susceptibility. Using a sophisticated array of molecular biology and plant genetics approaches, my project is to modify the plant gene sequences to which the TALE proteins bind to generate cassava plants with durable disease resistance to blight.