Feng Chen, associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, has conducted internationally acclaimed research on plant natural defenses against insects. One of Chen’s research thrusts is to investigate the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” phenomenon concerning interactions between plants and insects, whereby plants, upon damage by insects, send out “crying for help” signals to call out to their allies, the natural enemies of insects, for the plant’s protection.
Employing an integrated genomics approach, the Chen group has made significant progress in characterizing the molecular and genomic basis underlying the production of “crying for help” signals from plants. This research has resulted in multiple original research and review articles, including three published in the prestigious The Plant Journal. In the January 2012 Plant Journal article, Chen, his coworkers and collaborators described multiple mechanisms involved in the evolution of this important plant defense trait in sorghum, rice and maize. These findings shed new light on our understanding of the genetic basis governing plant-insect interactions among different plants. They also provide new knowledge for genetic improvement of crops for insect resistance.
Chen, F., Tholl, D., Bohlmann, J., and Pichersky, E.. 2011. The family of terpene synthases in plants: A mid-size family of genes for specialized metabolism that is highly diversified throughout the kingdom. Plant Journal 66:212-229.
Zhuang, X., Köllner, T.G., Zhao, N., Li, G., Jiang, Y., Zhu, L., Ma, J., Degenhardt, J., and Chen, F. 2012. Dynamic evolution of herbivore-induced sesquiterpene biosynthesis in sorghum and related grass crops. Plant Journal 69:70-80.