The long-term goal of the Roberts lab is to use knowledge gained about the molecular biology and pathology of plant immunity to develop plants with increased resistance against pathogens.
We study plant immunity, plant-microbe interactions, and pathology to better understand the infection process and why plants get sick. We hope that by better understanding plant immunity we can develop more resistant crops and reduce our reliance on pesticides, improve the economics and environmental impacts of agriculture, and contribute to an integrated pest management strategy.
We focus on two crops for improvement: wheat and tomato. Wheat is an economically important crop in Colorado and around the world with many plant disease problems. The Roberts lab focuses on diseases that can cause significant yield losses in Colorado wheat, including viral diseases (Wheat streak mosaic virus and Triticum mosaic virus, among others) and bacterial leaf streak (caused by Xanthomonas translucens pv. undulosa). Our goal is to better understand plant immunity in wheat and to characterize the pathogens that exist in and around Colorado wheat fields.
In tomato, bacterial speck disease (caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato) is both an economically important disease and an excellent model system to study plant immunity and molecular biology in a crop species. Speck disease causes necrotic lesions on fruit, leaves, flowers, and stems which reduces yield and makes symptomatic fruit unmarketable. There are many experimental resources available to the tomato-speck pathosystem, including high-quality tomato and bacterial genomes, CRISPR-Cas9 knockouts of over 150 immunity-associated genes, and many genetic and experimental resources. We hope our findings in tomato will not only aid tomato improvement, but also serve as a model for other crop species.
Courses I Teach
BSPM 500 Fundamentals of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management
- Roberts, R., E. Liu, L. Wan, A. M. Geiger, S. R. Hind, H. G. Rosli, and G. B. Martin. (2020). Molecular characterization of differences between the tomato immune receptors Fls3 and Fls2. Plant Physiology 183:1825-1837.
- Roberts, R., S. Mainiero, A. F. Powell, A. E. Liu, K. Shi, S. R. Hind, S. R. Strickler, A. Collmer and G. B. Martin (2019). Natural variation for unusual host responses and flagellin-mediated immunity against Pseudomonas syringae in genetically diverse tomato accessions. New Phytologist 223:447-461
- Roberts, R., S. R. Hind, K. F. Pedley, B. A. Diner, M. J. Szarzanowicz, D. Luciano-Rosario, B. B. Majhi, G. Popov, G. Sessa, C.-S. Oh, and G. B. Martin (2019). Mai1 protein acts between host recognition of pathogen effectors and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 32:1496-1507
- Roberts, R., L. K. Mayberry, K. S. Browning, A. M. Rakotondrafara. (2017). The Triticum mosaic virus 5’ Leader Binds to Both eIF4G and eIFiso4G for Translation. PLoS One 12(1):e0169602
- Roberts, R., J. Zhang, L. K. Mayberry, S. Tatineni, K. S. Browning, A. M. Rakotondrafara. A Unique 5’ Translation Element Discovered in Triticum mosaic virus. (2015) Journal of Virology 89(24):12427-40.
- Jaramillo-Mesa, H., M. Gannon, E. Holshbach, J. Zhang, R. Roberts, M. Buettner, and A. M. Rakotondrafara. Triticum mosaic virus IRES relies on a picornavirus-like YX-AUG motif to designate the preferred translation initiation site and to likely target the 18S rRNA. (2019) Journal of Virology 93(5): e01705-18.
- Zhang, J., R. Roberts, A. M. Rakotondrafara. The role of the 5’ untranslated regions of Potyviridae in translation. (2015) Virus Research. 206:74-81.