All Articles by Rebecca Satterwhite

6 Articles

All Articles by Rebecca Satterwhite

I am broadly interested in the evolution and structure of host-associated microbial communities. Of the numerous taxa that compose the Arabidopsis microbiome, fungi make up a substantial portion, but studies to date have tended to focus on the bacterial portion. With the help of my labmate Manon Guilberteau, I have cultured over thirty unique fungal species from natural populations of Arabidopsis. By infecting sterile Arabidopsis with specific microbial taxa under tightly controlled environmental conditions, I will investigate the role of fungi in formation of the non-mycorrhizal plant microbiome.

2 Articles

All Articles by Rebecca Satterwhite

1 Article

Congratulations to Joy, our own newly elected member of the National Academy!

We are so thrilled to congratulate Joy on this seminal accomplishment! The good news was celebrated by the lab and the department at large, and covered in a UChicago news article.

The lab joins the department in celebrating Joy’s election
Joy with Mercedes Pascual, Tim Morton, and Grey Dwyer
Dr. Martin Kreitman toasting Joy’s success
Joy absolutely nailing the traditional cork shoot

Local adaptation and the accessory genome in an endemic plant-pathogen

infected crop cultivars from the ongoing adaptation experiment



Genetic variation is fodder for evolution, and microbial plant-pathogens have it in spades. The Pseudomonas syringae genome is characterized by many rare “accessory” genes that co-occur with “core” genes found in all individuals. In fact, accessory genes outnumber core genes 2:1, even though accessory genes are not essential for survival. Moreover, there is tremendous variation in the gene content of P. syringae; isolates from different crop species, for example, differ in gene content by ~32% (Karasov et al. 2017). Whether these strain-specific genes have adaptive potential remains unknown; they may simply be a consequence of high rates of mutation and lateral gene transfer, even if purifying selection to remove deleterious variants is strong. Another, not mutually exclusive possibility is that accessory genes are maintained by positive selection as pathogens adapt to alternative hosts. Indeed, local adaptation has been hypothesized to explain the presence of rare alleles in P. syringae, which causes major agricultural loss in multiple crop species each year. To address these hypotheses, I have paired a set of P. syringae isolates with their original hosts of isolation. I first test for local adaptation by comparing the in planta fitness of each isolate in its own, and in each other’s, native host. Next, I ask to what degree strain-specific genes influence adaptive patterns by using Tn-seq to track the in planta gene frequencies of each pathogen over the course of infection in each host. From this combination of experiments, we will learn to what extent host ecology influences genome evolution and virulence in P. syringae; this is important not only to inform our understanding of the selective process, but also to fields concerned with the emergence and spread of infectious disease.

P. syringae transposon mutants!