Plant pathogen coevolution

Honour McCann

hmc p1
  • PhD, University of Toronto, 2006-13
  • Postdoctoral training, Institute for Advanced Study at Massey University, New Zealand, 2013-18
  • Lecturer, Massey University, New Zealand, 2018-19
  • Max Planck research group leader at the MPI from 2020

Research Interest

How do new plant diseases emerge and spread? Do they arise as a consequence of host shifts from other cultivated crops or wild relatives? Wild landscapes harbour more host diversity and exhibit greater spatial and environmental heterogeneity compared to intensively managed agricultural ecosystems. How do pathogens evolve in wild as opposed to agricultural environments?

Our work is focused on identifying the processes driving disease emergence and exploring how hosts and pathogens coevolve in both wild and agricultural contexts. Disease outbreaks caused by Pseudomonas syringae on a recently domesticated crop (kiwifruit) serve as an excellent model system to address these questions. In collaboration with researchers in East Asia, we run sampling programs to isolate pathogens from both wild and cultivated hosts. We use a variety of sequencing approaches in combination with laboratory and greenhouse experiments to address fundamental questions in plant pathology and microbial evolution.

  • symptoms 2
    click to enlarge

Kiwifruit leaf exhibiting symptoms of infection by Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae

Available PhD Projects

Project 1:  Wild origins of agricultural disease outbreaks
Project 2:  Within host evolution of bacterial plant pathogens

Selected Reading

1) McCann HC*¶, Li L*, Liu Y, Li D, Pan H, Zhong C, Rikkerink EHA, Templeton MD, Straub C, Colombi E, Rainey PB†¶ and Huang H†¶. (2017). Origin and evolution of a pandemic lineage of the kiwifruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae. Genome Biology and Evolution 9(4):932-944, *co-first author, †co-senior author, ¶co- corresponding author.

2) McCann HC, Rikkerink EHA, Bertels F, Fiers M, Lu A, Rees-George J, Andersen MT, Gleave AP, Haubold B, Wohlers MW, Guttman DS, Wang PW, Straub C, Vanneste JL, Rainey PB and Templeton MD. (2013) Genomic analysis of the kiwifruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae provides insights into the origins of an emergent plant disease. PLOS Pathogens 9:e1003503.

3) Colombi E, Straub C, Kunzel S, Templeton MD, McCann HC† and Rainey P.B.† (2017) Evolution of copper resistance in the kiwifruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae through acquisition of integrative conjugative elements and plasmids. Environmental Microbiology 19(2):819-832, †co-senior author.