- PhD, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006
My research is focused on the mechanisms of plant-virus interactions, specifically antiviral immunity, gene silencing, the identification of cellular genes that condition susceptibility or resistance to viruses, and genetic variation in viruses. We are interested in the interconnection between RNA replication and RNA silencing mechanisms in viruses using yeast and plants as model systems in combination with genomic and bioinformatics approaches.
My projects have the potential to contribute to basic understanding of virus-host interactions leading to practical application in biotechnology, medicine, and agriculture. Related to Nebraska, my project is generating knowledge to diagnose viral diseases in maize, and to design antiviral resistance to maize viruses. Below are current projects and future directions.
At all parts of the infection cycle, viral factors work in synchrony with proviral host factors (Garcia-Ruiz, et al., 2018). However, plants respond to virus infection though several mechanisms, such as autophagy, ubiquitination, mRNA decay, and gene silencing that viruses must evade or suppress (Garcia-Ruiz, et al., 2019). Thus, host factors may have proviral or antiviral activities and virus infection is genetically determined by the availability of host factors necessary for virus replication and movement and by the balance between plant defense and viral suppression of defense responses. Sequential requirement of proviral factors and activity of antiviral factors support a two-step model to explain plant-virus interactions (Garcia-Ruiz, et al., 2019).
I am the Nebraska State Virologist and teach a Molecular Plant Virology course.