Beverley Harris

Department: Plant and Microbial Science
Discipline: Biosciences
Research Centre/Unit: Plant and Fungal Molecular Biology

Project Summary

'Molecular basis of Trichoderma spp. mediated growth promotion and systemic immunity in plants'  

Novel approaches geared towards simultaneously increasing plant growth and enhancing host defenses against a range of plant pathogens provide enormous potential to enhance global food security in an environmentally sustainable way. My research is focused on growth promotion and protection of plants by the soil dwelling biocontrol fungus Trichoderma hamatum. Previous research has shown that by genetically manipulating the fungus to alter hyphal cell wall permeability, further significant improvements in plant-growth-promotion can be achieved. A mutation in a T. hamatum exo-chitinase gene results in incorrect chitin deposition at the hyphal tip and an increase in secretory potential of the fungus. The enzyme-deficient mutant, strain 6.1, displays enhanced P-G-P activity compared to the wild type strain GD12 that is linked to its ability to hyper-secrete water soluble plant growth stimulants. Importantly, T. hamatum stimulates growth on a wide range of crop plants and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana displays natural variation in growth promotion. My research is using this model organism to unravel the genetic basis of the host response to Trichoderma strains GD12 and 6.1.



Supervisory Team

1: Dr. C. R.Thornton and 2: Prof. M. R. Grant

Wider Research Interests

My additional interests include astrobiology and climate regulation. I am compelled by the evolution of the universe and life in general where much scientific speculation concerning our origins continue to perplex the sharpest minds known to man. In addition,  the flux of gaseous elements and mans contribution to global warming has led me to investigate potential repercussions of our actions and more specifically,  its effect on our oceans.

Authored Publications/Reports

Ryder, L.S., Harris, B.D., Soanes, D.M., Kershaw, M.J., Talbot, N.T., Thornton, C.R. (January 2012) Saprotrophic competitiveness and biocontrol fitness of a genetically modified strain of the plant-growth-promoting fungus Trichoderma hamatum GD12, Microbiology., 158 (1), 4-97

David Studholme, Beverly Harris, Kate Le-Cocq, Rebecca Winsbury, Verura Perera, Lauren Ryder, Chris Thornton, Murray Grant. (25th June 2013) Investigating the beneficial traits of Trichoderma hamatum GD12 for sustainable agriculture – insights from genomics., Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, 4, 258