Associate Professor 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.

Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of Western Sydney University Research Impact Competition, 2022
  • Awarded the 2018 Daniel McAlpine Medal for the promotion of mycology through the innovation of his research program, the national and international impact of his publications, and due to his service to the discipline through his commitment to sustained communication with a broad audience, 2018
  • Awarded the Goldacre Award for pioneering work in decoding the genetic basis enabling plants to form symbiotic relationships with beneficial rather than pathogenic microbes, 2017
  • Awarded a Young Tall Poppy Science Award, issued by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science and recognised promising young scientists achieving both scientific excellence and demonstrating a commitment to sharing their passion and knowledge, 2016
  • Awarded a travel grant to attend the Science in the Shine Dome Symposium event in Canberra, 2016
  • Awarded a Thomas Davies Fellowship (Australian Academy of Science), 2015
  • Awarded a Science and Innovation Award (Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries), 2014

Grants / Current Projects

Biologically informed control of Gummy Stem Blight in glasshouse cucurbits  
Partner/Funding Body: Perfection Fresh  
Period: 2023-2027

Management of foliar bacterial diseases in vegetables 
Co-Researcher: Uffe Nielsen
Partner/Funding Body: Hort Innovation [via NSW Dept of Primary Industries]
Period: 2023-2026

Diversification of eEF1 by an elongation factor of protein translation in ectomycorrhizal fungi from disturbed soils: from protein synthesis to cell detoxification functions
Partner/Funding Body: Agence National de la Recherche
Period: 2022-2024

Microbiome management: Leveraging advances in microbiome research
Co-Researcher: Ian Anderson
Partner/Funding Body: Forest and Wood Products Australia
Period: 2022-2027

Innovative nursery management solutions to sustainably manage root disease, improve nursery utilisation, and enhance resilience and productivity of planted pines
Co-Researchers: Ian Anderson, Krista Plett, Angus Carnegie
Partner/Funding Body: National Institute for Forest Products Innovations (NIFPI) Gippsland Centre, co-funded by Australia's large forest managers 
Period: 2022-2024

Are Secreted Proteins determinants of host range in ectomycorrhizal fungi?
Co-Researcher: Ian Anderson
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Discovery
Period: 2022-2024

Develop novel integrated disease management strategies for delivering solutions to mitigate the impact of major broccolini diseases
Co-Researchers: Ian Anderson and Jeff Powell
Partner/Funding Body: Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre
Period: 2022-2026

Developing molecular ‘fingerprinting’ of myrtle rust disease to facilitate strategies in monitoring and control
Co-Researcher: Michelle Moffit
Partner/Funding Body: Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation
Period: 2020-2021

Fruit body differentiation in mushrooms and truffle-like fungiCo-Researcher: David Orlovitch
Partner/Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand
Period: 2019

Improving management of Phytophthora root rot of chickpea
Partner/Funding Body: NSW Department of Primary Industries
Period: 2019-2020

National Tree Genomics Program – Genotype Prediction Toolbox
Co-Researchers: Roger Hellens, Alexie Papanicolaou and Chris Cazzonelli
Partner/Funding Body: Horticulture Innovation Australia
Period: 2019-2024

Factors controlling ectomycorrhizal contributions to plant N nutrition
Co-Researcher: Ian Anderson
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Discovery
Period: 2019-2022

Linking epigenomic regulation of carbon acquisition to nutrient use in fungi
Partner/Funding Body: United States Department of Energy - Joint Genome Institute
Period: 2018

Improving management of Phytophthora root rot of chickpea
Partner/Funding Body: Grain Research Development Corporation
Period: 2018-2020

Sustainable pasture systems under climate extremes Co-Researchers: Sally Power, Mark Tjoelker, Elise Pendall, David Tissue, Jeff Powell, Ian Anderson, Ben Moore, Catriona Macdonald, Brajesh Singh and Yolima Carrillo
Partner/Funding Body: Meat & Livestock Australia Donor Company and Dairy Australia
Period: 2017-2020

Characterising controls of carbon flow from trees into mycorrhizal fungi
Co-Researcher: Ian Anderson
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Discovery
Period: 2016-2018

Understanding plant:fungal communication to increase plant productivity
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council DECRA
Period: 2015-2017

Identification and characterisation of genetic markers in pulse crops that promote disease resistance without compromising symbiotic interactions Partner/Funding Body: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Period: 2014

Enhancing root health through a better understanding of plant genetics that enable mutaliltistic beneficial relationships with soil microbes Co-Researchers: Ian Anderson and Sara Hortal
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Academy of Science and Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Period: 2014

Selected Publications (Post 2010)

Mamaghani VF, Mikhael M, Plett JM, (2023) 'Chickpea pathogen-resistance-rating correlates with responsiveness to an immune elicitor protein from Phytophthora medicaginis', Rhizosphere, vol.25, Article no.100654

Plett JM, Miyauchi S, Morin E, Plett K, Wong-Bajracharya J, de Freitas Pereira M, Kuo A, Henrissat B, Drula E, Wojtalewicz D, Riley R, Pangilinan J, Andreopoulos W, LaButti K, Daum C, Yoshinaga Y, Fauchery L, Ng V, Lipzen A, Barry K, Singan V, Guo J, Lebel T, Costa MD, Grigoriev IV, Martin F, Anderson IC, Kohler A, (2023) 'Speciation Underpinned by Unexpected Molecular Diversity in the Mycorrhizal Fungal Genus Pisolithus', Molecular biology and evolution, vol.40, no.3, msad045

Plett KL, Monk T-L, Carnegie AJ, Powell JR, Green P, Plett JM, (2023) 'Reduced growth of Pinus radiata in the presence of the Australian native Allocasuarina nana via direct allelopathy and inhibition of the pine-supporting mycorrhizal community', Applied Soil Ecology, vol.187, Article no.104852

Sahu N, Indic B, Wong-Bajracharya J, Merenyi Z, Ke HM, Ahrendt S, Monk TL, Kocsube S, Drula E, Lipzen A, Balint B, Henrissat B, Andreopoulos B, Martin FM, Harder CB, Rigling D, Ford KL, Foster GD, Pangilinan J, Papanicolaou A, Barry K, LaButti K, Viragh M, Koriabine M, Yan M, Riley R, Champramary S, Plett KL, Grigoriev IV, Tsai IJ, Slot J, Sipos G, Plett J, Nagy LG, (2023) 'Vertical and horizontal gene transfer shaped plant colonization and biomass degradation in the fungal genus Armillaria', Nature Microbiology, vol.8, pp 1668–1681

Stuart EK, Singan V, Amirebrahimi M, Na H, Ng V, Grigoriev IV, Martin F, Anderson IC, Plett JM, Plett KL, (2023) 'Acquisition of host-derived carbon in biomass of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus microcarpus is correlated to fungal carbon demand and plant defences', FEMS microbiology ecology, vol.99, no.5, Article no.fiad037

Churchill AC, Zhang H, Fuller KJ, Amiji B, Anderson IC, Barton CVM, Carrillo Y, Catunda KLM, Chandregowda MH, Igwenagu C, Jacob V, Kim GW, Macdonald CA, Medlyn BE, Moore BD, Pendall E, Plett JM, Post AK, Powell JR, Tissue DT, Tjoelker MG, Power SA, (2022) 'Pastures and Climate Extremes: Impacts of Cool Season Warming and Drought on the Productivity of Key Pasture Species in a Field Experiment', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.13, Article no.836968

Coles DW, Bithell SL, Mikhael M, Cuddy WS, Plett JM, (2022) 'Chickpea Roots Undergoing Colonisation by Phytophthora medicaginis Exhibit Opposing Jasmonic Acid and Salicylic Acid Accumulation and Signalling Profiles to Leaf Hemibiotrophic Models', Microorganisms, vol.10, no.2, Article no.343

Hill RA, Wong-Bajracharya J, Anwar S, Coles D, Wang M, Lipzen A, Ng V, Grigoriev IV, Martin F, Anderson IC, Cazzonelli CI, Jeffries T, Plett KL, Plett JM, (2022) 'Abscisic acid supports colonization of Eucalyptus grandis roots by the mutualistic ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus microcarpus', New Phytologist, vol.233, no.2, pp 966-982

Moffitt MC, Wong‐bajracharya J, Shuey LS, Park RF, Pegg GS, Plett JM, (2022) 'Both Constitutive and Infection‐Responsive Secondary Metabolites Linked to Resistance against Austropuccinia psidii (Myrtle Rust) in Melaleuca quinquenervia', Microorganisms, vol.10, no.2, Article no.383

Nayak JJ, Anwar S, Krishna P, Chen Z-H, Plett JM, Foo E, Cazzonelli CI, (2022) 'Tangerine tomato roots show increased accumulation of acyclic carotenoids, less abscisic acid, drought sensitivity, and impaired endomycorrhizal colonization', Plant Science, vol.321, Article no.111308

Paudel L, Kerr S, Prentis P, Tanurdzic M, Papanikolaou A, Plett J, Cazzonelli CI, (2022) 'Horticultural Innovation by Viral-Induced Gene Regulation of Carotenogenesis', Horticulture Research, vol.9, Article uhab008

Plett JM, Sabotic J, Vogt E, Snijders F, Kohler A, Nielsen UN, Kunzler M, Martin F, Veneault-Fourrey C, (2022) 'Mycorrhiza-induced mycocypins of Laccaria bicolor are potent protease inhibitors with nematotoxic and collembola antifeedant activity', Environmental Microbiology, vol.24, no.10, pp 4607-4622

Plett KL, Snijders F, Castaneda-Gomez L, Wong-Bajracharya JWH, Anderson IC, Carrillo Y, Plett JM, (2022) 'Nitrogen fertilization differentially affects the symbiotic capacity of two co-occurring ectomycorrhizal species', Environmental Microbiology, vol.24, no.1, pp 309-323

Stuart EK, Castañeda-Gómez L, Macdonald CA, Wong-Bajracharya J, Anderson IC, Carrillo Y, Plett JM, Plett KL, (2022) 'Species-level identity of Pisolithus influences soil phosphorus availability for host plants and is moderated by nitrogen status, but not CO2', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.165, Article no.108520

Wong-Bajracharya J, Singan VR, Monti R, Plett KL, Ng V, Grigoriev IV, Martin FM, Anderson IC, Plett JM, (2022) 'The ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus microcarpus encodes a microRNA involved in cross-kingdom gene silencing during symbiosis', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol.119, no.3, Article no.e2103527119

Wu G, Miyauchi S, Morin E, Kuo A, Drula E, Varga T, Kohler A, Feng B, Cao Y, Lipzen A, Daum C, Hundley H, Pangilinan J, Johnson J, Barry K, LaButti K, Ng V, Ahrendt S, Min B, Choi IG, Park H, Plett JM, Magnuson J, Spatafora JW, Nagy LG, Henrissat B, Grigoriev IV, Yang ZL, Xu JP, Martin FM, (2022) 'Evolutionary innovations through gain and loss of genes in the ectomycorrhizal Boletales', New Phytologist, vol.223, no.3, pp 1383-1400

Plett JM, Solomon J, Snijders F, Marlow-Conway J, Plett KL, Bithell SL, (2021) 'Order of microbial succession affects rhizobia-mediated biocontrol efforts against Phytophthora root rot', Microbiological Research, vol.242, Article no.126628

Plett KL, Bithell SL, Dando A, Plett JM, (2021) 'Chickpea shows genotype-specific nodulation responses across soil nitrogen environment and root disease resistance categories', BMC Plant Biology, vol.21, no.1, Article no.310

Plett KL, Buckley S, Plett JM, Anderson IC, Lundberg-Felten J, Jämtgård S, (2021) 'Novel microdialysis technique reveals a dramatic shift in metabolite secretion during the early stages of the interaction between the ectomycorrhizal fungus pisolithus microcarpus and its host eucalyptus grandis', Microorganisms vol.9, no.9, Article number 1817

Zhang H, Powell JR, Plett JM, Churchill AC, Power SA, Macdonald CA, Jacob V, Kim GW, Pendall E, Tissue D, Catunda KM, Igwenagu C, Carrillo Y, Moore BD, Anderson IC, (2021) 'Climate warming negates arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal reductions in soil phosphorus leaching with tall fescue but not lucerne', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.152, Article no.108075

Zhang H, Powell JR, Power SA, Churchill AC, Plett JM, Macdonald CA, Jacob V, Kim GW, Pendall E, Tissue DT, Catunda KLM, Igwenagu C, Carrillo Y, Moore BD, Anderson IC, (2021) 'Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal-mediated reductions in N2O emissions were not impacted by experimental warming for two common pasture species', Pedobiologia, vol.s 87-88, Article no.150744

Daguerre Y, Basso V, Hartmann-Wittulski S, Schellenberger R, Meyer L, Bailly J, Kohler A, Plett JM, Martin F, Veneault-Fourrey C, (2020) 'The mutualism effector MiSSP7 of Laccaria bicolor alters the interactions between the poplar JAZ6 protein and its associated proteins', Scientific Reports, vol.10, no.1, Article no.20362

Gilarte P, Plett J, Pendall E, Carrillo Y, Nielsen UN, (2020) 'Direct and indirect trophic interactions of soil nematodes impact chickpea and oat nutrition', Plant and Soil, vol.457, pp 255–268

Plett JM, Plett KL, Wong-Bajracharya J, Pereira MD, Costa MD, Kohler A, Martin F, Anderson IC, (2020) 'Mycorrhizal effector PaMiSSP10b alters polyamine biosynthesis in Eucalyptus root cells and promotes root colonization', New Phytologist, vol.228, no.2, pp 712-727

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

Wong-Bajracharya J, Castañeda-Gómez L, Plett KL, Anderson IC, Carrillo Y, Plett JM, (2020) 'Untangling the effect of roots and mutualistic ectomycorrhizal fungi on soil metabolite profiles under ambient and elevated carbon dioxide', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.151, Article no.108021

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).