plant-microbe-interactions; plant-insect-interactions; plant signaling and defense; chemical ecology; global change
The primary research goal of the Casteel lab is to identify the functions of microbes in plant-insect interactions and elucidate the key molecular mechanisms responsible for these relationships. Current focus of the lab is on the molecular genetics of plant signaling and defense in response to insect vectors and the pathogens they transmit. We use a combination of molecular biology, genetics, genomics and biochemistry together with field and laboratory trials to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying ecologically important relationships. We are currently using Arabidopsis and tomato to (1) determine the impact of individual viral proteins on plant-aphid interactions (2) investigate host targets of viral proteins responsible for producing the host plant phenotype and extended phenotype in the insect vector (3) decipher the early signaling events and the mechanisms of plant resistance that occur during pathogen transmission by insect herbivores and (4) establish how the elements of global change will affect the functions of microbes in plant-insect interactions.