Doctor Jonathan Plett

Dr Jonathan PlettI joined the team at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in October 2012. I hold a Ph.D. in biology from Queen's University in plant developmental biology where I specialized in the molecular dissection of hormone signaling pathways.

In January of 2009 I began my post doctoral research at L'Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), France, where I worked on functionally characterizing small secreted protein signals that coordinate symbiosis between plants and soil-borne mutualistic fungi – an interaction that is essential for the continued health and productivity of forests.

Presently I am undertaking a project with the aim to better understand the role of small proteins secreted of the mutualistic fungus Pisolithus in mediating the establishment of symbiosis with Ecalyptus tree species. Further I wish to understand how environmental extremes such as heat and elevated levels of CO2 affect the interaction between Pisolithus and Eucalyptus with the aim to identifying what mechanisms both organisms employ to mitigate the negative effects of abiotic.

All living organisms depend on communication and perception in order to survive. Perception of signals such as heat, humidity and nutrient availability allow for response to abiotic stimuli, while communication with other organisms, whether consciously or passively given or received, allows for reaction to the ecosystem in which they are found.

How these different stimuli are interpreted and acted upon aids an organism in finding food and shelter, avoiding predators and defending against a variety of pathogens. As humans we pride ourselves on the interconnectivity of our species and the advancements that this has allowed us in our specific niche.

Within the plant world, too, success of an individual or species within an ecosystem has depended in large part on transcending simple dependence on self and involves a very complex interplay in communication and symbiosis with other plants, animals, fungi and bacteria.

The broad aim of my research is to identify and understand how signals are sent and perceived by plants and their associated microbiota to coordinate development and enable this ecosystem to survive under less than ideal conditions.

Areas of Research/Teaching Expertise

Young SproutMy areas of teaching specialty include genetics, molecular and cellular biology (plant, animal and fungal), plant physiology and development, plant signal transduction, plant:microbe interactions as well as fungal proteomics. Past courses that I have taught include genetics, general biology and biological diversity.


  • 2018: Daniel McAlpine Medal (International Mycological Association)
  • 2017: Peter Goldacre Award (Australian Society of Plant Scientists)
  • 2016: NSW Young Tall Poppy Award (Australian Institute of Policy and Science)
  • 2015: Thomas Davies Fellowship (Australian Academy of Science)
  • 2014: Science and Innovation Award (Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries)

Selected Publications (Post 2010)

Wong JW-H, Plett KL, Natera SHA, Roessner U, Anderson IC, Plett JM, (2020) 'Comparative metabolomics implicates threitol as a fungal signal supporting colonization of Armillaria luteobubalina on eucalypt roots', Plant Cell and Environment, vol.43, no.2, pp 374-386

Egidi E, Delgado-Baquerizo M, Plett JM, Wang JT, Eldridge DJ, Bardgett RD, Maestre FT, Singh BK, (2019) 'A few Ascomycota taxa dominate soil fungal communities worldwide', Nature Communications, vol.10, Article no.2369

Foo E, Plett JM, Lopez-Raez JA, Reid D, (2019) 'Editorial: The Role of Plant Hormones in Plant-Microbe Symbioses', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.10, Article no.1391

Naidoo S, Slippers B, Plett JM, Coles D, Oates CN, (2019) 'The Road to Resistance in Forest Trees', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.10, Article no.27

Plett KL, Raposo AE, Anderson IC, Piller SC, Plett JM, (2019) 'Protein Arginine Methyltransferase Expression Affects Ectomycorrhizal Symbiosis and the Regulation of Hormone Signaling Pathways', Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, vol.32, no.10, pp 1291-1302

Wong JWH, Lutz A, Natera S, Wang M, Ng V, Grigoriev I, Martin F, Roessner U, Anderson IC, Plett JM, (2019) 'The Influence of Contrasting Microbial Lifestyles on the Pre-symbiotic Metabolite Responses of Eucalyptus grandis Roots', Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol.7, Article no.10

Wong JWH, Plett JM, (2019) 'Root renovation: how an improved understanding of basic root biology could inform the development of elite crops that foster sustainable soil health', Functional Plant Biology, vol.46, no.7, pp 597-612

Plett JM, Martin F, (2018) 'Know your enemy and embrace your friend: using omics to understand how plants respond differently to pathogenic and mutualistic microorganisms', The Plant Journal, vol.93, pp 729-746

Hortal S, Plett KL, Plett JM, Cresswell T, Johansen M, Pendall E, Anderson IC, (2017) 'Role of plant-fungal nutrient trading and host control in determining the competitive success of ectomycorrhizal fungi', The ISME Journal, vol.11, pp 2666-2676

Plett JM, Yin H, Mewalal R, Hu R, Li T, Ranjan P, Jawdy S, De Paoli H, Butler G, Burch-Smith T, Guo H-B, Chen CJ, Kohler A, Anderson IC, Labbé J, Martin F, Tuskan G, Yang X. (2017) Populus trichocarpa encodes small, effector-like secreted proteins that are highly induced during mutualistic symbiosis. Scientific Reports. 7:382.

Plett JM, Plett KL, Bithell SL, Mitchell C, Moore K, Powell JR, Anderson IC, (2016) 'Improved Phytophthora resistance in commercial chickpea (Cicer arietinum) varieties negatively impacts symbiotic gene signaling and symbiotic potential in some varieties', Plant, Cell & Environment, vol.39, pp 1858–1869

Kohler A, Kuo A, Nagy LG, Morin E, Barry KW, et al. (2015) 'Convergent losses of decay mechanisms and rapid turnover of symbiosis genes in mycorrhizal mutualists', Nature Genetics, vol.47, pp 410-415

Plett JM, Kohler A, Khachane A, Keniry K, Plett KL, Martin F, Anderson IC, (2015) 'The effect of elevated carbon dioxide on the interaction between Eucalyptus grandis and diverse isolates of Pisolithus sp. is associated with a complex shift in the root transcriptome', New Phytologist, vol.206, pp 1423-1436

Plett JM, Daguerre Y, Wittulsky S, Deveau A, Melton SJ, Kohler A, Morrell-Falvey J, Brun A, Veneault-Fourrey C, Martin F, (2014) 'The effector protein MiSSP7 of the mutualistic ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor interacts with Populus JAZ proteins', Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, vol.111, pp 8299-8304

Plett JM, Khachane A, Ouassou M, Sundberg B, Kohler A, Martin F, (2014) 'Ethylene and jasmonic acid act as negative modulators during mutualistic symbiosis between Laccaria bicolor and Populus roots', New Phytologist, vol.202, pp 270-286

Plett JM, Kemppainen M, Kale S, Kohler A, Legué V, Brun A, Tyler B, Pardo A, Martin F, (2011) 'A secreted effector protein of Laccaria bicolor is required for symbiosis development', Current Biology, vol.21, pp 1197-1203

Selected Conference Presentations (Post 2015):

Plett JM. (Invited Plenary Speaker) Within Hailing Distance: The critical role of pre-symbiotic fungal signals to the colonization success of the ectomycorrhizal fungi. 4th International Molecular Mycorrhiza Meeting. Turin, Italy. (2019).

Plett JM. (Invited Plenary Speaker) Do fungal isolates act as clones? IV International Symposium on Microbiology and Biotechnology. Vicosa, Brazil. (2018).

Plett JM. (Invited Speaker) Grammar and Syntax: Decoding the language of mutualistic vs. pathogenic signaling during plant-microbe interactions. International Mycological Conference 11. San Juan, Puerto Rico. (2018).

Plett JM. (Invited Speaker). Tuning in to rhizosphere radio: Decoding the conversations between plants and microbes to breed more sustainable crops. ComBio. Adelaide, Australia. (2017).

Plett JM, Plett KL, Pereira M, Wong JW-H, Hortal S, Veneault-Fourrey C, Kohler A, Martin F, Anderson IC. (Invited Plenary Speaker). Effector warfare: the role of effector-like proteins in the establishment of symbiotic interactions between ectomycorrhizal fungi and their hosts. 9th International Conference on Mycorrhiza. Prague, Czech Republic. (2017).

Plett JM, Plett KL, Wong JW-H, Daguerre Y, Veneault-Fourrey C, Kohler A, Martin F, Anderson IC. (Invited Plenary Speaker). Eavesdropping on Dirt-y Conversations: characterizing how the protein based signals exchanged between soilborne mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots promote mutualistic symbiosis International Union of Microbiological Societies 2017. Singapore. (2017).

Plett JM, Plett K, Kohler A, Martin F, Anderson IC. (Invited Speaker) Effector warfare: the role of effector-like proteins in the establishment of symbiotic interactions between ectomycorrhizal fungi and their hosts. 29th Fungal Genetics Meeting. Pacific Grove, California. (2017).

Plett JM, Drigo B, Keniry K, Anderson IC. (Invited Speaker). Impacts of climate change factors on eucalypt ectomycorrhizal fungi. Australian Mycological Society ONE Microbiology. QT Hotel, Canberra, ACT. (2015).

Plett JM, Kohler A , Tschaplinski T, Engle N, Anderson IC, Martin F. (Invited Speaker) Mycorrhizas as mutualists – what do mycorrhizas teach us about cooperation and host specificity? 8th International Conference on Mycorrhiza. Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff, AZ, USA. (2015).

Plett JM, Daguerre Y, Anderson IC, Veneault-Fourrey C, Martin F. (Invited Speaker) Ectomycorrhizal fungi are playing JAZs during symbiosis formation. 35th New Phytologist Symposium: The genomes of forest trees: new frontiers of forest biology. Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. Boston, USA. (2015).