My research interest focuses on molecular mechanisms of maize resistance against economically important fungal pathogens. We identify critical resistance genes and clone major resistance QTLs through reverse genetic and forward genetic approaches. By applying genetic, molecular and biochemical methods, the molecular mechanisms in regulating maize resistance against different diseases are explored.
Current research areas:
1) Identification and cloning major resistance QTLs against Corn Gray Leaf Spot (GLS) and Northern Corn Leaf Blight (NLB);
2) The molecular mechanisms of major maize resistance genes against GLS and NLB;
3) Molecular mechanisms of the maize-Setosphearia turcicum interaction;
2006-2010 Ph.D. graduate student at Purdue University
Major: Botany and Plant Pathology
Research project: Functional analysis of Arabidopsis WRKY transcription factors in plant defense responses
2003-2005 Ph.D. graduate student at North Dakota State University
Major: Plant Pathology
Research projects: Molecular mapping of avirulence genes of the barley net blotch fungus, Pyrenophora tere f. teres and barley resistance genes
1999-2002 M.S. graduate student at Nanjing Agricultural University, China
Major: Molecular Plant Pathology
M.S. thesis: Cloning a disease specific pathogenicity (dsp) gene from Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola (Xooc)
1995-1999 B.S. undergraduate student at Jiangxi Agricultural University, China
Major: Plant Protection
2018-Present: Bio-protocol, associate editor
1. Zhang, Y., Zhang, Y., Yu, D., Peng Y., Min, H and Lai, Z. (2019) Copper ions are required for Cochliobolus heterostrophus in appressorium formation and virulence on maize. Phytopathology. https://doi.org/10.1094/PHYTO-07-19-0254-R
2. Lai, Z., Schluttenhoffer, S.M., Bhide, K., Jacob, S., Thimmapuram, J., Lee, S.Y., Yun, DJ., Mengiste T. (2014) MED18 interacts with distinct transcription factors regulates plant immunity, flowering time and responses to hormones. Nature Communications. 5: 3064. doi:10.1038/ncomms4064
3. Lai, Z., Li, Y., Wang, F., Cheng, Y., Fan, B., Yu, J., and Chen, Z. (2011) Arabidopsis Sigma Factor-Binding Proteins are Activators of WRKY33 Transcription factor in Plant Defense. Plant Cell. 23: 3824-3841.
4. Lai, Z., Wang, F., Zheng, Z., Fan, B., Chen, Z. (2011) A Critical Role of Autophagy in Plant Resistance to Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens. Plant Journal. 66: 953-968.