Plant Pathogen Evolution

Research areas

Pathogen emergence

We investigate disease emergence in agricultural systems, focusing on bacterial infectious diseases caused by Pseudomonas syringae and more recently, Ralstonia solanacearum. We use population genomics and phylogeographic inference to reconstruct the direction and timing of migration events, identify outbreak origins and detect host shift or host range expansion events.

Virulence and host specificity

We are developing high-throughput host infection assays to quantitatively measure virulence phenotypes in multiple hosts. In combination with genomic analyses and bacterial genetics, this allows us to investigate pathogen adaptation to novel hosts or agricultural environments and identify causal genetic variants underlying host shift events.

Microbial interactions

Pathogen infections do not occur in isolation, but rather occur in the context of diverse microbial communities. We use greenhouse and laboratory experiments to investigate how intra-specific interactions in the phyllosphere alter disease outcomes.

Host resistance evolution

Antagonistic coevolution drives the expansion and diversification of plant immunity and pathogen virulence genes. We are exploring how selection shapes resistance gene repertoires in natural plant populations. This work is paired with host-pathogen transcriptomics to identify key genes and pathways involved in immune recognition and defense.

Official lab page

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We are a growing team of people with varied experience in microbial genomics, evolutionary biology, microbiology and more. We use a variety of sequencing approaches in combination with field work, laboratory and greenhouse experiments to address fundamental questions in plant pathology and microbial evolution.

Interested in joining us? We are based at the MPI for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, an outstanding institute with a friendly and dynamic research environment. While project-relevant experience and training are valued, we welcome applications from creative and motivated individuals interested in tackling challenging questions.

Send an email to honour.mccann(at) to discuss project and funding opportunities.