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Sheng-Yang He

Benjamin E. Powell Distinguished Professor of Biology
Office hours 9 am - 5 pm daily  

Research Interests

To flourish in a microbe-rich world, higher eukaryotic organisms have evolved sophisticated signaling, metabolic, and structural pathways configured to promote beneficial microbiomes, while simultaneously resisting pathogen attacks. Millions of years of co-evolution between hosts and microbes have resulted in a fascinating world of attack, counter-attack, deception, and hijacking mechanisms, all of which are essential to our understanding of life on Earth. In our lab, we probe these intricate host-microbe interactions using a model system consisting of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, its microbiome, and the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. Our research is designed to answer the following fundamental questions: 1) how do microbial pathogens attack and infect host plants? 2) how do environmental factors impact disease and immunity? and 3) how do plants select and maintain beneficial microbiomes? Results from our studies contribute to the buildup of the foundational knowledge required for translational research to develop long-term solutions to promote plant health and global food security.

Selected Grants

Cell and Molecular Biology Training Program

Inst. Training Prgm or CMEMentor · Awarded by National Institutes of Health · 2021 - 2026

Establishment of an aqueous environment as a novel mechanism of bacterial pathogenesis

ResearchPrincipal Investigator · Awarded by National Institutes of Health · 2020 - 2025

Genetic and Genomics Training Grant

Inst. Training Prgm or CMEMentor · Awarded by National Institutes of Health · 2020 - 2025

A natural variation approach to dissecting temperature-sensitive nodes of the plant immune system

FellowshipMentor · Awarded by Department of Agriculture · 2021 - 2024

Cytoskeletal regulation of immunity

ResearchPrincipal Investigator · Awarded by Michigan State University · 2020 - 2024

Fellowships, Gifts, and Supported Research

Plant Pathogenesis and Disease Susceptibility · 2020 - 2021 Investigator · Howard Hughes Medical Institute · $875,000.00 This award supports my research program to explore new frontiers of research in the field of plant-microbe interactions.
Establishment of an aqueous environment as a novel mechanism of bacterial pathogenesis · 2020 - 2025 PI · NIAID · $1,915,726.00 The major goal of this project is to elucidate how two virulence proteins of Pseudomonas syringae induce an aqueous microenvironment inside plant leaves during pathogenesis.
Resuscitation and assembly of the rhizosphere microbiome in response to plant stress · 2018 - 2021 co-PI · NSF/MCB · $10,161.00 The goals of this project are (i) to determine the mechanisms by which environmental bacteria respond to plant hormones that signal stress and (ii) to quantify the stochastic and deterministic components of rhizosphere microbiome assembly after exposure to plant stress hormones in situ.
Cytoskeletal regulation of immunity · 2020 - 2023 co-PI · NSF/IOS · $156,902.00 The major goal of this project is to use Arabidopsis guard cells as a model to study how actin cytoskeleton integrates immune and hormone signals and how bacterial virulence proteins intercept actin cytoskeleton to promote infection.

External Relationships

  • Royalty from Cornell University for an invention on a bacterial (Erwinia amylovora) protein called harpin made when I was a postdoc (1991-1993).

This faculty member (or a member of their immediate family) has reported outside activities with the companies, institutions, or organizations listed above. This information is available to institutional leadership and, when appropriate, management plans are in place to address potential conflicts of interest.