I work in Dr. Ted Fox’s Plant Physiology and Biotechnology laboratory on multiple projects involving the physiology and biochemistry of Dioscorea bulbifera L., commonly known as the air potato. This species is an economically and medicinally important plant for tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, but is introduced and considered an invasive species here in the Southeastern United States.
For my thesis I am researching the synthesis and localization of wound and pathogen elicited proteins as a putative defense response in D. bulbifera L. Research to date has shown that in response to both biotic and abiotic stressors plants use a multitude of defense mechanisms that are both pre-formed and induced. These physiological processes are governed by the production of and cross-talk between salicylates and jasmonates. I am using both fungal and bacterial pathogens, as well as mechanical wounding, and exogenous salicylic acid application to elicit the production of antimicrobial proteins. I am also developing a unique extraction method that will enable me to separate the proteins localized to the apoplast from those that remain within the cell and cell wall. In doing this the localization of elicited proteins may be determined in order to see where and how the plant is actively defending itself during each of the stress situations tested. An investigation of the defense physiology of the air potato may give valuable insights into the reasons for its medicinal qualities as well as its invasive nature.