Recognition

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

Plants’ perception of molecular signatures from beneficial or pathogenic microbes and pests is critical for the establishment of symbioses or initiation of immunity. Typically, these molecular signatures are sensed by receptors at either the cell surface (PRRs) or inside cells (NLRs). Diverse microbial or pest-derived molecules can be recognised, including complex oligosaccharides, nucleotides, peptides, and proteins. Some recognition events involve direct interactions between microbial or pest molecules and plant receptors. However, indirect interactions also occur and receptors can detect changes in host molecular complexes, or the activity of a microbial molecule on host factors.

To discover components involved in perception, we will investigate the genetic and molecular basis of recognition. In addition, we will use synthetic biology approaches to develop new capabilities in nature’s toolkit. Screening diverse germplasm, or preparing diverse receptor libraries, coupled with gene editing technologies (e.g. CRISPR) to introduce and test candidate genes in target plants, is critical for identifying or expanding plant recognition repertoires both at the cell surface and inside cells. The expansion in the number of genes encoding potential cell surface PRRs in plant genomes suggests we currently underestimate the full complement of recognition specificities in the plant kingdom. Discovery and functional characterisation of these specificities will further our understanding of how plants and microbes communicate with each other at the cell surface. Natural variation in wild populations, and in close and distant crop relatives, provides a rich diversity of sources for developing as-yet unexploited resistance for crops. Although the molecular mechanisms of non-host resistance, a form of asymptomatic immunity often deployed in crop breeding, are still poorly understood, both PRR and NLR receptors are likely to contribute. An emerging but critical question is to understand how levels and localisation of PRR and NLR receptors are controlled, and how they are organised in complexes competent for the perception of microbial- or pest-derived signals.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Obj 1.1: We previously identified three genes that confer nonhost resistance to wheat yellow rust. We previously fine-mapped Rps7 and found it was in coupling with the barley powdery mildew resistance locus, Mla. Candidate genes for the other two loci are currently being resolved with additional fine-mapping.

Obj. 1.1: A PhD student who started in Oct 2017 has made progress with characterisation of aphid elicitors and identification of plant receptors that mediate the first layer of the plant defense response to aphids.

Obj. 1.1: We have contributed to the identification of several novel elicitors and PRRs, as well as receptor kinases contributing to the function of plant PRRs.

Obj. 1.2: We have unveiled mechanisms that control the assembly of PRR complexes or the abundance of key downstream signaling components (e.g. BIK1).

Obj. 1.2: New insights were obtained into how the RPS4/RRS1 NLR complex converts effector recognition into defence activation; a publication has been submitted.

Obj. 1.2: We also isolated an allelic series of a new resistance gene (Rpi-amr1e) against potato late blight from the potato relative, Solanum americanum, and in 2017 undertook field trials of transgenic lines carrying this gene. A paper reporting RPi-amr1e is being prepared.

Obj. 1.2: We unravelled the molecular mechanistic basis of how the allelic rice Pik-1/Pik-2 NLR pair recognises polymorphic pathogen proteins (effectors) from the rice blast pathogen. A paper reporting this has been submitted.

Obj 1.2: We have confirmed that Mla8 confers resistance to wheat yellow rust using complementation in barley. A paper detailing this result is in preparation.

Obj. 1.3: We have demonstrated that the PRR EFR can be used to engineer anti-bacterial disease resistance in potato and Medicago. In addition, we showed that EFR expression in Medicago, while conferring resistance to a bacterial pathogen, does not impede on Rhizobium symbiosis.

Obj. 1.3: In on-going work, we have taken the first steps towards engineering NLRs for expanded resistance. We have demonstrated this in a model system (based on initial in vitro work) and are now testing in crops.

Obj 1.3: We have discovered that an NLR at the Mla locus exists as a trans-species polymorphism that has been maintained for 24 million years. The polymorphism includes the presence or absence of an integrated Exo70F1 gene, which is involved in exocystosis and is a known target of pathogen effectors. A paper has been placed on the preprint server bioRxiv and is currently under review.
Exploitation Route Too early to say
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment

 
Description We (Zipfel) have started in 2017 a multi-year partnership with the Two Blades Foundation and Monsanto to identify PRRs that can be deployed in corn to engineer resistance to fungal pathogens.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description ERC Advanced Investigator
Amount € 2,500,000 (EUR)
Funding ID BLASTOFF 743165 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2022
 
Description Open call from 2Blades Foundation
Amount £12,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation 2Blades Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 02/2018 
End 01/2021
 
Description The Royal Society International Exchanges Cost Share 2017 Japan (JSPS) award for overseas travel between collaborators in the UK and Japan
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Title Golden-Gate compatible Magnaporthe oryzae transformation vectors 
Description Golden-Gate compatible vectors for Magnaporthe oryzae transformation. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact 1/ Pennington, H.G., Youles, M., and Kamoun, S. 2017. Golden-Gate compatible Magnaporthe oryzae protoplast transformation vectors. Figshare. 2/ Pennington, H.G., Youles, M., and Kamoun, S. 2017. Golden-Gate compatible Magnaporthe oryzae protoplast transformation vectors. Figshare. Plasmids are available via AddGene. 
URL https://www.addgene.org/Sophien_Kamoun/
 
Title Protein-protein interaction assays 
Description Protein-protein interaction assays to identify effector-host protein interactions 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Petre, B., Win, J., Menke, F.L.H., and Kamoun, S. 2017. Protein-protein interaction assays with effector-GFP fusions in Nicotiana benthamiana. In "Wheat Rust Diseases: Methods and Protocols", S. Periyannan, ed. Methods in Molecular Biology, 1659:85-98. 
 
Title The RenSeq method 
Description Sequence capture of R genes (RenSeq) is being broadly applied across multiple plant species to expand knowledge of plant immune repertoires 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Many genes that confer stem rust resistance in wheat have been cloned using this method 
 
Description Collaboration with Jack Vossen 
Organisation University of Wageningen
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Collaborator Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Impact Wu, C.-H., Abd-El-Haliem, A., Bozkurt, T.O., Belhaj, K., Terauchi, R., Vossen, J.H., and Kamoun, S. 2017. NLR network mediates immunity to diverse plant pathogens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 114:8113-8118.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Collaboration with Lab of Ryohei Terauchi at IBRC in Iwate, Japan 
Organisation Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Leading collaborative research project on Structure/function studies of rice balst disease and host resistance.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative work on research project.
Impact Research publications and BBSRC grant funded (M02198X).
Start Year 2011
 
Description Collaboration with Prof. Ryohei Terauchi 
Organisation University of Kyoto
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise. Exchange of visits.
Collaborator Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise. Exchange of visits.
Impact Kobayashi, M., Hiraka, Y., Abe, A., Yaegashi, H., Natsume, S., Kikuchi, H., Takagi, H., Saitoh, H., Win, J., Kamoun, S., and Terauchi, R. 2017. Genome analysis of the foxtail millet pathogen Sclerospora graminicola reveals the complex effector repertoire of graminicolous downy mildews. BMC Genomics, 18:897. Bialas, A., Zess, E.K., De la Concepcion, J.C., Franceschetti, M., Pennington, H.G., Yoshida, K., Upson, J.L., Chanclud, E., Wu, C.-H., Langner, T., Maqbool, A., Varden, F.A., Derevnina, L., Belhaj, K., Fujisaki, K., Saitoh, H., Terauchi, R., Banfield, M.J., and Kamoun, S. 2017. Lessons in effector and NLR biology of plant-microbe systems. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions Tamiru, M., Natsume, S., Takagi, H., White, B., Yaegashi, H., Shimizu, M., Yoshida, K., Uemura, A., Oikawa, K., Abe, A., Urasaki, N., Matsumura, H., Babil, P., Yamanaka, S., Matsumoto, R., Muranaka, S., Girma, G., Lopez-Montes, A., Gedil, M., Bhattacharjee, R., Abberton, M., Kumar, P.L., Rabbi, I., Tsujimura, M., Terachi, T., Haerty, W., Corpas, M., Kamoun, S., Kahl, G., Takagi, H., Asiedu, R., and Terauchi, R. 2017. Genome sequencing of the staple food crop white Guinea yam enables the development of a molecular marker for sex determination. BMC Biology, 15:86. Wu, C.-H., Abd-El-Haliem, A., Bozkurt, T.O., Belhaj, K., Terauchi, R., Vossen, J.H., and Kamoun, S. 2017. NLR network mediates immunity to diverse plant pathogens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 114:8113-8118. Yoshida, K., Saunders, D.G., Mitsuoka, C., Natsume, S., Kosugi, S., Saitoh, H., Inoue, Y., Chuma, I., Tosa, Y., Cano, L.M., Kamoun, S., and Terauchi, R. 2016. Host specialization of the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae is associated with dynamic gain and loss of genes linked to transposable elements. BMC Genomics, 18:370.
 
Description Collaboration with Vivianne Vleeshouwers 
Organisation University of Wageningen
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Collaborator Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Impact Domazakis, E., Wouters, D., Visser, R., Kamoun, S., Joosten, M.H., and Vleeshouwers, V.G.A.A. 2018. The ELR-SOBIR1 complex functions as a two-component RLK to mount defense against Phytophthora infestans. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions Derevnina, L., Dagdas, Y.F., De la Concepcion, J.C., Bialas, A., Kellner, R., Petre, B., Domazakis, E., Du, J., Wu, C.-H., Lin, X., Aguilera-Galvez, C., Cruz-Mireles, N., Vleeshouwers, V.G.A.A. and Kamoun, S. 2016. Nine things to know about elicitins. New Phytologist, 212:888-895. Giannakopoulou, A., Bialas, A., Kamoun, S., and Vleeshouwers, V.G.A.A. 2016. Plant immunity switched from bacteria to virus. Nature Biotechnology, 34:391-392. Du, J., Verzaux, E., Chaparro-Garcia, A., Bijsterbosch, G., Keizer, L.C.P., Zhou, J., Liebrand, T.W.H., Xie, C., Govers, F., Robatzek, S., van der Vossen, E.A.G., Jacobsen, E., Visser, R.G.F., Kamoun, S., and Vleeshouwers, V.G.A.A. 2015. Elicitin recognition confers enhanced resistance to Phytophthora infestans in potato. Nature Plants, 1:15034.
 
Description Collaboration with the Lab of Frank Takken 
Organisation University of Amsterdam
Department Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Collaborator Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Impact Publication in New Phytologist
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with the Lab of Paul Birch 
Organisation James Hutton Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Collaborator Contribution Exchange of materials/expertise
Impact N/A at this time
Start Year 2012
 
Description Formal research collaboration with SESVanderHave 
Organisation Sesvanderhave
Country Belgium 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution My research group has provided advise on strategies to obtain aphid resistant sugar beet, exchanged knowledge on research progress in plant-insect interactions of the lab, and wrote BBRSC-LINK award to fund research.
Collaborator Contribution SESVanderHave provides access to sugar beet breeding lines, genome sequence resources for these lines and insecticide-free field sites for collection of aphid populations in UK and Europe. They also funded a postdoctoral researcher in my group for one year, contributed 50% in-kind funds for the BBSRC-LINK award and funds a iCASE studentship in my group. PhD student Roland Wouters was recruited for the iCASE project. Roland is making good progress.
Impact Generated knowledge on plant-insect interactions. Organized visits of the SESVanderHave team to JIC (two times per year) and my group at JIC to SESVanderHave headquarters in Tienen, Belgium (two times per year). Organized regular Skype calls to discuss research progress and ideas for future research.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Partnership with 2Blades Foundation 
Organisation Two Blades Foundation
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Discovery program for plant immune receptors
Collaborator Contribution know-how, biological material and plant transformation
Impact Scientific and economic outputs, incl. patents.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Plant Response Biotech 
Organisation Plant Response Biotech S.L.
Country Spain 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This is an iCASE studentship with Plant Response Biotech. We have generated transgenic tomato homozygous lines expressing individual Arabidopsis receptor kinases belonging to the sub-family XII of LRR-RLKs. We have generated single and multiple insertional Arabidopsis mutants for LRR-RLK sub-family XII members.
Collaborator Contribution The lines generated above will be tested at the end of year at Plant Response Biotech by the student employed in this project for disease resistance. The partner will provide lab space, consumable costs, access to growth chambers, access to relevant pathogens, and access to proprietary plant-derived and microbial elicitors.
Impact not applicable yet.
Start Year 2015
 
Title QKbusco 
Description A set of scripts that merge BUSCO orthologous genes for phylogenetic analysis. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Development of the most comprehensive phylogenetic tree of the Poales. Scripts can be used by anyone seeking to develop a phylogenetic tree from diverse data sets (genome or transcriptome). 
URL https://github.com/matthewmoscou/QKbusco
 
Title QKdomain 
Description A set of scripts that can be used for protein domain analysis. The majority of which are developed to process files for input/output to/from InterProScan, MEME Suite, and phylogenetic analysis. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used in several manuscripts to analyse protein domain structure. Broadly useful to anyone seeking to study proteins with complex domain structure. 
URL https://github.com/matthewmoscou/QKdomain
 
Title QKgenome 
Description A set of scripts for converting genomes based on resequencing information. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used in several manuscripts in preparation to analyze intraspecific variation. The scripts are being used by a number of collaborators to analyze population level data. 
URL https://github.com/matthewmoscou/QKgenome
 
Title QKphylogeny 
Description A set of scripts for phylogenetic tree assessment and editing. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used by several groups and other software packages as dependencies for the analysis of multiple sequence alignments and phylogenetic trees. 
URL https://github.com/matthewmoscou/QKphylogeny
 
Description A biologist's poem 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A poem to inspire about biology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/170774045435/a-biologists-poem
 
Description CropLife FoodHeroes Series: What inspires plant scientists and why is their job so important? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Why did you want to be a plant scientist?

I became a scientist because I grew up being extremely curious about the natural world. I wanted to know how living organisms function. How they became the way they are. Plant pathology came later after realized that I may as well study a field of biology that is important to the human condition. This inspires me to narrow the gap between fundamental and applied research. My aim is to perform cutting-edge research and significantly advance knowledge on economically important plant pathogen systems. In contrast, much research focuses on model systems and is therefore further steps away from practical applications.

Can you explain what your job involves?

As an academic scientist, I am in the business of knowledge. My job is to generate new knowledge to advance science, and to influence others to pursue new directions, generate more knowledge and apply it to address practical problems. My job is also to communicate scientific knowledge and discoveries to my peers and to a broader audience, including the general public.

What are the plant diseases that you are working on?

I work primarily on blight and blast diseases. Throughout my career, I have worked primarily on the Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans. More recently, I was inspired by the sense of urgency brought upon by the February 2016 Bangladeshi wheat blast epidemic to expand my research to blast fungi. I aim to apply the concepts and ideas I developed throughout my career to a problem with an immediate impact on global food security.

Can you describe how damaging these diseases can be for farmers?

Plant diseases are a major constraint for achieving food security. Losses caused by fungal plant pathogens alone account for enough to feed several billion people. Magnaporthe oryzae, the causal agent of blast disease of cereals, is among the most destructive plant pathogens, causing losses in rice production that, if mitigated, could feed up to 740 million people. This pathogen has emerged since the 1980s as an important pathogen of wheat seriously limiting the potential for wheat production in South America. In 2016, wheat blast was detected for the first time in Asia with reports of a severe epidemic in Bangladesh. The outbreak is particularly worrisome because wheat blast has already spread further to India, and is threatening major wheat producing areas in neighboring South Asian countries. Global trade and a warming climate are contributing to the spread and establishment of blast diseases as a global problem for cereal production and a present and clear danger to food security.

Why is your profession important in the challenge to feed the world?

Plant pathology delivers science-driven solutions to plant diseases. In particular, genetic solutions through disease resistant crop varieties can be sustainable and environmentally friendly.

What inspires you about your job?

Knowledge and people. The thrill of learning something new every day is addictive. Sharing the experience with others -be they students, colleagues, stakeholders or members of the public - is priceless.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://croplife.org/industry-profile/sophien-kamoun/
 
Description European Research Council@10: the impact on science and scientists 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Scientists at the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory reflect on the success of the ERC over the last ten years and the impact that ERC grants have had on their science and their careers. Category: Science & Technology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://youtu.be/qEgjYaMG0tQ
 
Description Food Thinkers Series: 'Dysfunctional regulation of GM crops; scope for improvement post-Brexit?', Presentation for Food Research Collaboration, Centre for Food Policy (CFP) City University London, February 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Food Thinkers Series: 'Dysfunctional regulation of GM crops; scope for improvement post-Brexit?', Presentation for Food Research Collaboration, Centre for Food Policy (CFP) City University London, February 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://foodresearch.org.uk/food-thinkers-dysfunctional-regulation-of-gm-crops-scope-for-improvement-...
 
Description Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine: AGRICULTURE--Can CRISPR feed the world? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact As the world's population rises, scientists want to edit the genes of potatoes and wheat to help them fight plant diseases that cause famine.

By 2040, there will be 9 billion people in the world. 'That's like adding another China onto today's global population,' said Professor Sophien Kamoun of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK.

Prof. Kamoun is one of a growing number of food scientists trying to figure out how to feed the world. As an expert in plant pathogens such as Phytophthora infestans - the fungus-like microbe responsible for potato blight - he wants to make crops more resistant to disease.

Potato blight sparked the Irish famine in the 19th century, causing a million people to starve to death and another million migrants to flee. European farmers now keep the fungus in check by using pesticides. However, in regions without access to chemical sprays, it continues to wipe out enough potatoes to feed hundreds of millions of people every year.

'Potato blight is still a problem,' said Prof. Kamoun. 'In Europe, we use 12 chemical sprays per season to manage the pathogen that causes blight, but other parts of the world cannot afford this.'

Plants try to fight off the pathogens that cause disease but these are continuously changing to evade detection by the plant's immune system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/can-crispr-feed-world_en.html
 
Description IS-MPMI Interactions: Fat Cats Can Jump Over The Wall: Plant Biotic Interactions Workshop in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On a cloudy Norwich day in 2011, post-docs Sebastian Schornack, Sylvain Raffaele, and Tolga Bozkurt were having a typical British lunch of fish and chips with mushy peas with their supervisor Sophien Kamoun. Somehow, the discussion turned to the importance of sustained productivity. Kamoun, in his usual hyperbolic style, pointed out that now that each one of them had just published notable papers (Schornack et al., 2010; Raffaele et al., 2010; Bozkurt et al., 2011), they should beware of not behaving like "lazy fat cats" and think hard about their next papers. Not everyone left the lunch in the happiest mood. One day later, after discussion with another post-doc, Mireille van Damme, Schornack and colleagues decided to found the Lazy Fat Cat Club (#LFCats). Schornack drafted a chart and was appointed as Chairman Féi mao (fat cat in Mandarin). The #LFCats ethos is that productive research requires a significant amount of communication and knowledge exchange, and informally discussing research is a perfect way of solving roadblocks and laying paths for the future. Casual meetings took place on a regular basis at The Sainsbury Laboratory, mainly on afternoon coffee breaks. The club continued to loosely grow and several other researchers joined the #LFCats. As the members moved on to start their own labs, the #LFCats "brand" helped nurture a lasting bond. Suomeng Dong, now a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at Nanjing Agricultural University, coined the Chinese proverb "Fat cats cannot jump over the wall" to challenge the #LFCats to work collaboratively to solve problems and "jump over the wall."

It should be noted that the #LFCats are neither lazy (well, maybe a bit sometimes) nor overweight (no comments...). Instead the club's name relates to the initial discussion and stands for the importance of moving out your comfort zone and looking forward to the next goal in science or in life. It also grew to reflect the importance of informal interactions as a means to enhance efficiency and creativity. To promote such interactions, Schornack organized the first #LFCats research meeting at the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University in 2013. Dong (Nanjing Agricultural University, China) and Ruofang Zhang (Inner Mongolia University, China) led a second meeting in August 2017 in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The local host, Zhang, is the director of the Potato Research Center at Inner Mongolian University and the Plant Protection section in the Chinese Modern Agricultural Industry Technology System. Indeed, the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia is the largest potato production area in China and has contributed to making this country the leading potato producer in the world.

In this report, we summarize the key findings presented at the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ismpmi.org/members/Interactions/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=165
 
Description IS-MPMI Interactions: InterViews: Sophien Kamoun by Jixiang Kong 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This InterView with Sophien Kamoun, John Innes Centre, was performed by one of the 2016 IS-MPMI student travel awardees, Jixiang Kong, Gregor Mendel Institute.

JIXIANG KONG: What led you to study biology? More specifically plant-pathogen interactions.

SOPHIEN KAMOUN: I grew up with a passion for nature. As a teenager I collected insects and became fascinated by their incredible diversity. Later I took this "hobby" more seriously and I specialized in studying tiger beetles. I even published a few papers on this topic.

After high school in Tunisia, I went to Paris with the firm intention of studying biology and becoming an entomologist. However, I was disappointed by how badly taught zoology was-too much emphasis on taxonomy and little mechanistic thinking. Instead, I became drawn to the more rigorous methods and approaches of molecular biology, and I ended up majoring in genetics. I reconciled this major with my natural history interests by taking multiple modules in evolution and reading a lot on the subject.

Plant pathology came later when I moved from Paris to the University of California-Davis for my Ph.D. The fellowship I received stipulated that I should study plant biology. It wasn't by choice but rather by accident. But I quickly became engrossed in molecular plant pathology and I really liked that this science involves interactions between multiple organisms. However, for many years I missed a direct connection between the lab work and the field.

JK: If you would not have chosen the topic of plant-pathogen interactions, what would you choose?

SK: Definitely, entomology. I'm still fascinated by insects, especially beetles. I feel we know so little about their biology, especially from a mechanistic angle. They are so diverse and yet most insect research focuses on a few species, such as Drosophila. There are so many fascinating questions, for example, about the evolution of insect behavior and the underlying genes. Also, insects can be important crop pests and disease vectors. This is a very fertile area of research that I highly recommend to early career scientists.

JK: How do you envision large-scale "omics" approaches in studying plant immunity?

SK: Omics are just another tool. They're powerful tools but they're still methods we use to answer questions. I advise everyone to frame their research based on questions and then look for the best methods to answer these questions.

This said, genomics has transformed biology in a fundamental way. It's a new way of doing business. We now have catalogs of plant and pathogen genes, so the challenge is to link genes to function rather than discovering the genes per se. Another key aspect is that genomics is a great equalizer. Model systems are less important than in earlier days. One can make a lot of progress with a genome and a few functional assays. For example, consider the progress made in discovering effectors in obligate parasites. This would have been almost unthinkable in the pre-genomics age. This is why I wish to see more early career scientists explore the diversity of pathogen systems rather than working on established model systems.

JK: Social media is changing the way of communication rapidly. However, the scientific communication on social media is just emerging. How do you see the direction of social media in the future regarding the impact on science? Will social media replace or minimize some conventional communication such as conferences?

SK: Communication is an essential function of being a scientist. We're not only in the business of producing new knowledge but it's also our obligation to communicate knowledge to our peers and the public. These days social media became a major medium for communication in science. It's an efficient way to filter through the incessant flow of information, stay up to date, and broadly broadcast new knowledge. It also enables us to expand our network way beyond traditional colleagues. I interact on Twitter with teachers, farmers, journalists, etc. I also use it, of course, to communicate with colleagues and share information and insights. I also find Twitter immensely entertaining. Scientists have a lot of humor.

I don't think social media will replace the need for direct contact and interaction between peers. I think we still would want to break off our daily routine and meet in person with colleagues. However, I wish we could start rethinking the format of scientific conferences. Both the fairly detailed oral presentations and poster sessions could be improved if they were combined with some sort of Internet interaction. Twitter is already transforming how scientists interact at conferences but we could do better.

JK: What advice would you provide to young researchers who are in their early scientific career?

SK: Don't follow the herd. Take chances. Look beyond the current trends both in terms of experimental systems and questions, and ask provocative questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ismpmi.org/members/Interactions/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=152
 
Description Interview for BBC News on fighting wheat stem rust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Gave a telephone interview on a recent article from Science, which was a perspective piece on two major studies. Provided information related to the impact of this work on epidemiology of wheat stem rust and current challenges in countering this deadly pathogen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42446795
 
Description Interview on Talking Biotech podcast with Paul Vincelli 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact http://www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com/065-plant-r-genes-and-their-applications/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com/065-plant-r-genes-and-their-applications/
 
Description Norwich Science Festival 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Sainsbury Laboratory, including members of my research group, actively participated in the Norwich Science Festival, which showcases research currently going on at The Sainsbury Laboratory. Several hands on activates promote the general public engagement in science, including stamp a leaf in agar and Nicotiana infiltrations. Our booth is highly visited, with over 1,000 interactions experienced during the breadth of the Festival.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://norwichsciencefestival.co.uk/about/norwich-science-festival-2017/
 
Description SlideShare: Pathogenomics of emerging plant pathogens: too little, too late 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Slides: Pathogenomics of emerging plant pathogens: too little, too late. Presented at the conference "Building resilience against crop diseases: A global surveillance system", February 14, 2018, Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Lake Como, Italy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.slideshare.net/SophienKamoun/pathogenomics-of-emerging-plant-pathogens-too-little-too-la...
 
Description Stranger in a strange land: the experiences of immigrant researchers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Published in Genome Biology: Continuing with our Q&A series discussing issues of diversity in STEM fields, Genome Biology spoke with three researchers on their experiences as immigrants.

International collaborations are key to advancing scientific research globally and often require mobility on the part of researchers. Migration of scientists enables the spread of ideas and skills around the world, giving researchers the opportunity to follow the best resources. Of course, migration adds a new set of challenges to the already monumental task of starting and running a lab. Genome Biology spoke to Sophien Kamoun, Rosa Lozano-Durán, and Luay Nakhleh about their personal experiences.

What influenced your choice to move to your current country?

SK: There is this old German expression "wo die Musik spielt"-you go where it's happening, where the "music is played". I think that sums it up. When I was a student in the 1980s, almost everyone wanted to do a Ph.D. in the USA. I felt that to have the best training and to be among the best, I had no choice but to study in the USA. I think that was a pretty correct assessment of the state of affairs in the 1980s. Indeed, I had a fantastic experience at the University of California, Davis. Also, at that time, Europe wasn't really open to non-Western scientists, and international mobility wasn't recognized like it is today [1]. Later, I moved to the Netherlands and then back to the USA before landing in my current position at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in Norwich, UK. I moved to Norwich exactly 10 years ago, primarily because of the reputation of the laboratory as a center of excellence for plant pathology research and the generous support provided by David Sainsbury through the Gatsby Foundation. I have had a phenomenal time at TSL these past 10 years, where I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding scientists from perhaps about 30-40 countries. An interesting point is that when TSL was founded in 1988, all the group leaders were British [2], but currently our principal investigators are from all over the world [3]. I think TSL truly reflects the emergence of the #ScienceisGlobal movement on social media [4], which is so evident in the UK and other corners of Europe.

RL-D: Three years ago, having worked as a postdoctoral researcher for almost four years, I was eager to establish my own laboratory. I had known what I wanted to devote my research to for a long time and could not wait to get started. Unfortunately, the economic climate in Europe, where I am originally from and where I was working at the time, was not particularly propitious for science in academia, with research budgets being slashed and increasing competition-not the most favorable situation for new group leaders, I heard over and over again. My partner was also a scientist at the same career stage, and so we needed to find two positions, not just one, complicating matters even more. One day, just by chance, we came across a job advertisement for group leader positions at the Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology in China. We had heard about the place-a new institute with the ambition to become a powerhouse for plant sciences. I was very excited at the prospects of leading my own research group, and that excitement overrode any qualms or self-imposed geographical restrictions. I am also fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive family and friends who unconditionally encouraged me to pursue my scientific career, even if that involved moving far away; they may not always understand the nitty-gritty details of what I do, but they know how important it is for me.
It was my first job application, and I was offered the position following an interview at the center. They were willing to support me and give me the freedom to develop my own research program-it was an unbeatable opportunity to start my independent career. And the fact that I would be living in Asia, with the immense chance to broaden my experience that entailed, added some extra appeal (despite the slight vertigo I also felt). There was not much to think about, really-it was a deal I simply could not turn down.

LN: I was born to a Christian Arab family in Israel and did my undergraduate studies at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). Although I was an atheist by the time I started my studies at the Technion, I still considered myself to be "culturally" Christian, in that I celebrated Christmas and New Year with my family (eating and drinking, not going to church!). However, almost every year, my exams were scheduled on December 25th and January 1st (the Fall semester in Israel starts in October and ends in February). Being unable to take exams on different dates affected my performance in my studies and my interest in pursuing graduate studies at the same institution. Also, more generally, I was the only Christian Arab student in my class, and one of a handful of Arab students; I never felt comfortable at the time. So, I decided to pursue graduate studies in computer science outside Israel. The choice to come to the USA was an easy one because the USA had (and still has, in my opinion) the best graduate programs in computer science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-017-1370-4
 
Description Taproot Episode 1, Season 1: Extreme Open Science and the Meaning of Scientific Impact 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Taproot is the podcast that digs beneath the surface to understand how scientific publications in plant biology are created. In each episode, co-hosts Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter take a paper from the literature and talk about the story behind the science with one of its authors.

This episode features Sophien Kamoun, a Senior Scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK. He was born in Tunisia, and got his Maitrise from Pierre & Marie Curie Univ., Paris, France. He then moved to the United States where he did both a Ph.D. and postdoc at the University of California, Davis. He then went to Wageningen University in The Netherlands, where he was a Senior Research Scientist for three years. Sophien started as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at Ohio State University, Wooster, where he rose through the ranks to Full Professor before moving in 2007 to the Sainsbury Lab where he has been ever since. During this time he was Head of the Laboratory for several years. He has received many awards, and is an elected member of AAAS and EMBO, and has served on many editorial boards.

In this episode, the hosts and Sophien discuss a recent collaborative paper (Islam et al., 2016, BMC Biology) that really embodies the concepts of open science. It addresses the source and characterization of a newly discovered wheat blast in Bangladesh. Wheat blast is a fungal disease that affects grasses that are a huge threat to food security. The authors report the geographical distribution of this new disease, characterize the disease symptoms of affected plants, and isolate and validate the causal fungus. Most strikingly, they performed RNA sequencing on symptomatic and asymptomatic leaves and show that RNA from these infected leaves aligns to the genome of a Brazilian wheat blast strain. They conclude that the Bangladesh isolate of wheat blast is phylogenetically related to the Brazilian wheat blast, rather than an unknown or new lineage.

Listen to this episode to hear Sophien, Ivan, and Liz discuss the science in this paper, how the project started, and how it developed into a peer-reviewed publication. Also discussed is the importance of redefining what is meant by scientific "impact", and new ways to do science in the plant pathology community and beyond
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://plantae.org/taproot-episode-1-season-1-extreme-open-science-and-the-meaning-of-scientific-im...
 
Description Television interview with BBC World News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A video interview with BBC World News discussing the impact of wheat stem rust on worldwide wheat production, the impact of two recent studies on understanding the epidemiology of the pathogen, and the future outlook for crop protection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description What's up with preprints? And why I'm bothering with them. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact What's up with preprints? And why I'm bothering with them. A few answers to @hormiga post about why he's not bothering with preprints.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://kamounlab.tumblr.com/post/163409024195/whats-up-with-preprints-and-why-im-bothering
 
Description Wired: Who Wants Disease-Resistant GM Tomatoes? Probably Not Europe 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact ENGINEERING A TOMATO resistant to a pernicious fungal disease doesn't seem like it'd be the easiest part of a plant pathologist's job. But compared to getting that tomato to market? It's a snap.

At least, that's how Sophien Kamoun sees it. Kamoun studies plant diseases at the Sainsbury Laboratory in England, and in March his team published a paper describing a tomato they'd tweaked. Using the gene-editing technique Crispr/Cas9, Kamoun's group snipped out a piece of a gene called Mildew Resistant Locus O, or Mlo. That deletion makes the tomato resistant to powdery mildew, a serious agricultural problem that takes a lot of chemicals to control.

Kamoun's "Tomelo" actually looks a lot like a naturally occurring tomato, a mutant with the same resistance. "At least in the tomato plants we have, there was no detectable difference between the mutant and the wild type," Kamoun says. "Obviously we'd need to do more detailed field trials, but there was certainly nothing obvious."

But for now, that's where Kamoun's work stops. European regulations make the tomato essentially illegal-he and others can do the science, but probably can't get it to field trials, and certainly can't get it to market. "There's more clarity in the US. One could probably get approval. But in Europe, it's a big question mark," he says. "I'm very frustrated by this, I have to be honest. Scientifically this plant is no different from any mutant we'd get from traditional breeding or traditional mutagenesis. I really don't understand what the problem is."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.wired.com/2017/05/wants-disease-resistant-gm-tomatoes-probably-not-europe/?mbid=social_t...
 
Description YouTube: BLASTOFF - Keeping Up With A Cereal Killer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Via UC Berkeley Events. Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND) at UC Berkeley facilitates innovative solutions for infectious disease challenges. Berkeley, CA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://youtu.be/FCS5y_qX8n0