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About Li-Jun Ma

The focus of my laboratory is to understand genomic plasticity that enables organism niche adaptation using a model fungal system Fusarium oxysporum.
Genomic plasticity contributes directly to the adaptability of an organism to survive in changing environments. My research group studies eukaryotic genome evolution with a focus on understanding the genetic mechanisms that sustain structural and functional flexibility while maintaining the integrity of the organism. F. oxysporum is a highly adaptive species complex that consists of members that cause destructive and intractable wilt diseases across a diverse spectrum of plant hosts, including numerous economically important crops: e.g., cotton, canola, melons, and tomato. During the past two decades, F. oxysporum strains have also emerged as opportunistic pathogens causing life-threatening infections in immunocompromised patients. However, any single pathogenic form exhibits strong host specificity. Comparative genomics demonstrated that horizontal transfer of pathogenicity chromosomes conveys such host-specific pathogenicity (Ma et al, 2010). The pathogenicity chromosomes encoded in each pathogenic form provide a focal point for investigating the genetic mechanisms that underlie pathogenesis and have established F. oxysporum as an effective model to investigate horizontal chromosome transfer in eukaryotes.
Specifically, we will combine the experimental and computational biology approaches to:
study the molecular interactions between the “core genome” and the horizontally transferred chromosomes by probing regulatory network;
investigate the plant-fungal interactions using a Fusarium-Arabidopsis pathosystem; and
optimize management strategies to control the Fusarium diseases.


Present Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Contact Information

Fernald 204C
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst,MA 01003
Tel: 413-545-1205


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