Regine Kahmann studies mechanisms that allow fungi to infect plants and cause disease. Using smut fungi infecting important crop plants, she has uncovered that sexual and pathogenic development in these fungi are linked through combinatorial control of transcription factors. More recently, her work has shifted to the large repertoire of novel secreted fungal effector proteins, and to how such effectors suppress plant immunity and modulate the metabolism of plants to support fungal proliferation.
The fungus ’Ustilago maydis’ causes corn smut, a disease in which corn plants develop large tumors and are severely affected in yield. Regine’s group is using reverse genetics approaches in combination with cell biology and biochemistry to determine the molecular function of novel, virulence-promoting effectors. She uncovered a group of fungal effectors where each component is absolutely essential for virulence and for suppressing host immune responses. These proteins work together and constitute a promising new target for the development of agrochemicals and for combatting fungal plant diseases.
Among awards she has received are a Honorary Doctorate of the Hebrew University, the Mendel Medal, the Federal Republic of Germany Cross of Merit on Ribbon and the Leibniz-Prize.
Emeritus Scientific Member, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Max Planck Society