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K-State Today

October 23, 2018

Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Seminar features plant pathology’s David Cook on Oct. 24

Submitted by Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

David Cook, assistant professor of plant pathology in Kansas State University's College of Agriculture, is the featured speaker for Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Seminar at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in 120 Ackert Hall. He will present "Developing RNA-targeting CRISPR for use in plants."

Cook started as an assistant professor in plant pathology at K-State in January 2017. Before joining K-State, Cook received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a postdoctoral fellow at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He received fellowships from the European Molecular Biology Organization and the Human Frontiers in Science Program. The Cook lab's research interests fall into two broad areas: genome dynamics during plant-fungal interactions and novel biotech approaches to improve agronomic defense, response and performance.

Presentation abstract: The discovery and development of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat, or CRISPR, and associated effector proteins (Cas) for eukaryotic genome editing has impacted broad biological disciplines. From treating genetic disease to improving the worlds food supply, the full range of CRISPR applications are set to impact society for the coming decades. There are both practical and scientific applications, however, where permanent DNA editing could be unwanted or insufficient. To overcome these hurdles and expand the scientific tool-kit for functional genomics, we are developing the more recently discovered RNA-targeting CRISPR systems, termed Cas13, for use in plants. Most studies to-date have characterized how various Cas13 orthologs function using in vitro studies, fewer have studied their function in bacterial or human cell lines, and understanding how they function in planta is in its infancy. To characterize Cas13 function in plant cells, we are using the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana to study endogenous, transgene and viral RNA-targeting and silencing. Our initial results point to an unexpected interplay between Cas13-dependant and independent effects, which will be discussed along with future directions. Other projects in the Cook lab related to genomic control of fungal pathogenesis and chromatin dynamics will also be presented in an effort to foster discussion and collaboration across campus.

Cook would like to acknowledge Kansas State University plant pathology researchers including Wenguang Zheng, postdoctoral fellow; Veerendra Sharma, postdoctoral fellow; Jun Huang, doctoral student; and Wei Zhang, postdoctoral fellow.