Nicole Kho Clay

Assistant Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Current Projects

Investigating Chemical Diversity & Defensive Metabolism using a Functional Genomics Approach

Perception of Pathogenicity-encoded Microbe-associated Molecular Patterns

Glycan-mediated Control of Pattern Recognition Receptors (Immune Sensors)

Heterotrimeric G-proteins in Pattern Recognition Receptor-mediated Signal Transduction

Virus Recognition and Entry


Research Summary

The plant innate immune system is constantly evolving at the interface between the plant host and microbe, and this adaptation includes both the cell surface surveillance of perceived pathogens through their microbe-associated molecular patterns, or MAMPs, and the production of defense-related secondary metabolites. The former is a conserved strategy of eukaryotic innate immune systems while the latter is a hallmark response of the plant innate immune system, which relies more heavily on diversified chemical defenses than those of motile organisms. The Clay lab is focused on understanding the molecular basis for the adaptive diversification of the plant innate immune system, which is based on the perception and production of small molecules, and rivals the mammalian innate immune system in combating pathogenic infections. In particular, we are interested in understanding how pathogen discrimination is achieved through a molecular pattern recognition system, and how the chemical outcomes of secondary metabolic pathways are diversified and functionalized.


Selected Publications

  • N.K. Clay (2011) Chemical diversity on display in the plant innate immune systems of closely-related species. New Phytologist 192:566-569. PMID: 22007882.
  • Jander, G. and N. Clay (2011) New synthesis – plant defense signaling: new opportunities for studying chemical diversity. J. Chem. Ecol. 37:429. PMID: 21544524.
  • Millet, Y.A., Danna, C.H., Clay, N.K., Songnuan, W., Simon, M.D., Werck-Reichhart, D., and F.M. Ausubel (2010) Innate immune responses activated in Arabidopsis roots by microbe-associated molecular patterns. Plant Cell 22: 973-990. PMID: 20348432.
  • Clay, N.K., Adio, A.M., Denoux, C., Jander, G., and F.M. Ausubel (2009) Glucosinolate metabolites required for an Arabidopsis innate immune response. Science 323: 95-101. PMID: 19095898.
  • Songnuan, W., Millet, Y., Denoux, C., Clay, N.K., Danna, C., and F.M. Ausubel (2008) A seedling assay for MAMP signaling and infection studies. In: Biology of Plant-Microbe Interactions, vol. 6 (M. Lorito, S.L. Woo, and F. Scala, eds.) International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, St. Paul, MN.

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