Members of our research team study the strategies bacterial pathogens employ to cause diseases on plants. As a model system we study the gram-negative bacterial plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae and its interactions with plants. An important feature that P. syringae has that allows it to grow in plants and sooner or later cause disease is a protein secretion system called the type III protein secretion system. This protein secretion system is found in many gram-negative bacterial pathogens of both plants and animals and other bacteria in close associations with eukaryotic organisms. The truly remarkable characteristic of type III systems is that they not only secrete proteins from the bacterial cell, but they also inject or translocate bacterial proteins into eukaryotic cells.Our main research focus is to understand how type III secretion works and to determine what the translocated proteins (known as type III effectors) are doing inside the plant cell to favor parasitism. Relatively recently, we and others have found that type III effectors suppress plant innate immunity and, therefore, several of our projects are focused on how these proteins are capable of suppressing plant innate immune responses. We expect that this line of research will identify new components of plant immunity some of which might not be discovered using conventional approaches. Therefore, we view type III effectors as tools to explore the plant innate immune system.
News and Events
December, 2014 - Tania Toruno’s PhD graduation and also Mike McConnell’s congratulations cake. One half of the cake shows a diseased Arabidopsis plant and a diploma representing Tania’s PhD graduation studying plant immunity. The other half of the cake shows algae – Mike studies algae and he left UNL to work in a biotech company in Florida.
December, 2014 - Tania Toruno and Jim Alfano in academic regalia after her PhD graduation from the University of Nebraska.
December, 2014 - The “official” handshake between Jim Alfano and Tania Toruno marking a job well done by Tania in her PhD defense.
December, 2014 - Champagne celebration in the hallway outside the Alfano lab after Tania Toruno successfully defended her PhD thesis. Pictured from left to right are Tom Clemente, Jim Alfano, Gilles Basset, Rich Wilson, Tania Toruno, and Tania’s mother her made the trip from Nicaragua to support her daughter.
December, 2014 - Still more questions about the science after the PhD defense? Jim Alfano talking to Tania Toruno after her PhD defense.
August, 2014 - Saying goodbye to 2014 NSF REU Bioenergy and Redox students: PSI's Jim Alfano and student Christina Zarek.
August, 2014 - Marking a good summer res exp in the Alfano lab for Christina Zarek (3rd from left) a student from Hastings College.
May, 2014 - Congratulations to Dr. Anna Joe for coming back from her postdoc to go through the PhD hooding graduation ceremony with Jim Alfano at UNL.
February, 2014 - The Alfano lab participated in the 16th Annual Nebraska Women in Science Conference, February 22, 2014. This conference is sponsored by Nebraska’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and the UNL Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education. (photo)
February, 2014 - Congratulations to Anna Joe for successfully defending her Ph.D. thesis on Friday, Feb 14th. She will start her postdoc in Pam Ronald’s research group at UC Davis in March. Sad to see her leave but we are very excited to follow her research and career in the future.
December, 2013 - The 2012-2013 UNL Office of Research Annual Report featured an article on the research in the Alfano lab. Bolstering Plants' Defenses
September, 2013 - Jim Alfano received a 3 year research grant from the Plant-associated Microorganisms and Plant-Microbe Interactions program within the USDA/NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
December, 2012 - Alfano is given an Omtvedt Innovation Teaching Award by UNL for establishing an undergraduate program/major in microbiology at UNL.
October, 2012 - Farewell party for Anna Block at Lazlo’s microbrewery. She joined G. Basset’s research group here at UNL.
October, 2012 - Alfano elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his contribution to our understanding of the bacterial type III protein secretion system.
September, 2012 - Research Assistant Professors Guangyong Li and Ming Guo attended the New Phytologist Symposium on Immunomodulation by plant-associated organisms, which was held at Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
September, 2012 - Farewell (Crabcake) party for Emerson. He leaves Lincoln to join Craig Roy’s animal pathogen research group at Yale University.
August, 2012 - Ph.D. student Anna Joe gives a talk at the Biennial Molecular Biology of Soybean meeting held in Des Moines, IA.
July, 2012 - Alfano lab members attend the MPMI meeting in Kyoto, Japan.
July, 2012 - Congratulations to Emerson Crabill for passing his Ph.D defense.
July, 2012 - Anna Joe passed her Ph.D. comprehensive exam. She is now ABD (all but defense).
July, 2012 - Tania Toruno passed her Ph.D. comprehensive exam. Now ABD (all but defense).
May, 2012 - Undergraduate researchers Ian Rochford and Nicole Stanton graduate from UNL.
February, 2012 - Ph.D. student Anna Joe (far left) showing two participants the basics in the lab at the Women In Science Conference.
December, 2011 - Members of the Alfano lab participated in the Holiday Bowling Party. Jordan Westengaard won the pot of money for the best 3 game average.
November, 2011 - Ming Guo and Jim Alfano went on an extended trip to China. Jim gave talks at National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences - Institute of Plant Protection, Beijing and at the 2nd International Conference on Biotic Plant Interactions in Kunming, China. Ming gave a talk at Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China. Both Ming and Jim had excellent trips. See photo of Ming and Jim on the Great Wall of China.
August, 2011 -Members of the Alfano lab wished farewell to two undergraduates that were in the lab for the summer Lexi Paspalof, a Redox biology REU student, and Megan Smith, an NIH INBRE REU student.
August, 2011 - Jim Alfano and PhD students Anna Joe and Tania Toruno attended the the 6th Utrecht PhD Summerschool on Environmental Signaling held at Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
June, 2011 - Alfano lab hosted Professor Dorothee Staiger from the University of Beleifeld, Germany. She presented a seminar on "Postranscriptional control in biological timing".
May, 2011 - The lab bids farewell to BJ Jeong whom left the lab in May to become a senior research associate at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. Good luck BJ!
May, 2011 - Undergrad researcher Jessica Ryba graduates. And we just recently learned she was accepted in Med School at the University of Iowa. Best wishes in the future!
April, 2011 - Graduate student Tanja Toruno gave a talk at the regional ASM meeting held in Lincoln.
April, 2011 - Alfano participates in a graduate student course on innate immunity held at the University of Helsinki, Finland.
April 2011 - Graduate student Emerson Crabill gave a talk at a regional ASPB meeting held in West Lafayette, Indiana.
March, 2011 - Akane Kamigaki short research visit in the lab comes to an end. She will continue as a postdoc back in Japan. Best of luck to her!
March, 2011 - Alfano lab members Emerson Crabill, Anna Joe, and Tania Toruno participated in an outreach activity where Lincoln East High School students toured several labs in the Beadle Center.
March, 2011 - The lab hosts Dr. Mary Beth Mudgett from Stanford University. She presented a seminar in the Biotechnology Seminar Series on Xanthomonas type III effectors and also went with us on a lab outing to see the migration of the Sandhill Cranes near Grand Island, Nebraska.
March, 2011 - Emerson Crabill passed his PhD comprehensive exams. He's now ABD. Way to go EC!
Feb, 2011 - Alfano presented a seminar in the Biochemistry Department at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.
Feb, 2011 - The lab hosts Dr. Bing Yang from Iowa State University. He gave a seminar on Xanthomonas transcription activator-like type III effectors.
Feb, 2011 - Alfano was the guest speaker for the 7th annual Gary Ogden Memorial Lecture at Moorpark Community College in Moorpark, California. This was the first college Alfano attended and Gary Ogden taught the first biology class he took in college.
Feb, 2011 - Alfano lab members Anna Block, Anna Joe, and Tania Toruno participate in the Women in Science Conference. As part of the conference, attendees spend a few hours in several labs and learn about research.
Dec, 2010 - Alfano gave a talk at the Current Challenges in Plant Biology - Biotic Stress Signaling held in Helsinki, Finland.
Nov, 2010 - Postdoc Guangyong Li and wife welcome the birth of their daughter Nina. Congratulations! GL you are not only productive you're reproductive!
Oct, 2010 - César Turjillo from Adriana Bernal's research group at the Universidad de los Andes Bogotá, Colombia visited the lab for a few weeks to learn plant immune suppression assays.
Oct, 2010 - Graduate student Anna Joe gave a talk at the UNL Plant Science Retreat held in Nebraska City.
Sep, 2010 - Alfano and Postdoc Anna Block attend the P. syringae and related pathogens meeting in Oxford, England.
June, 2010 - Alfano gave a talk at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany.
May, 2010 - Undergrad researcher Ashley Gutwein graduates. She will attend medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Best wishes in the future!
May, 2010 - Congratulations to Fang "Tina" Tian! She defended her PhD thesis and graduated with a PhD. She recently accepted a job as an Assistant Investigator at the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, China.
February, 2010 - The Alfano group welcomes Laura Masini from Wageningen University in Holland and Christin Korneli from the University of Bielefeld in Germany, both of whom will be visiting the lab for several months. We hope they enjoy their stays.
November, 2009 - Congratulations to Anna Block and the rest of the co-authors for their paper on the HopG1 effector that was accepted for publication in Cellular Microbiology.
November, 2009 - Alfano wrote a review entitled "Roadmap for future research on plant pathogen effectors" which was published in the November issue (Vol. 10, Issue 6) of Molecular Plant Pathology. This issue commemorates the 25th aniversity of the cloning of a type III effector gene and there are several excellent reviews in this issue.
October, 2009 - Alfano visited Dorothee Staiger's research group and gave a departmental Seminar at the Molecular Cell Physiology Department, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany.
October, 2009 - Alfano gave an invited talk at the Bacterial Cell Envelope: Structure, function, and infection interface meeting held in Blaubeuren, Germany.
September, 2009 - Alfano gave an invited talk at the 22nd New Phytologist Symposium Effectors in plant microbe interactions at the INRA Versailles Research Centre, Paris, France.
September, 2009 - The Alfano lab had a lab retreat at Mahoney State Park. Guest attendees were Drs. Bin Yu and Chi Zhang.
July, 2009 - Jim Alfano along with Karin van Dijk (Creighton University) received an NSF grant to study chromatin remodeling in response to Pseudomonas syringae.