Root knot nematodes are parasites of most plants, including vegetables, field crops, trees, turf grass, and ornamentals. It is estimated that global losses due to plant-parasitic nematodes exceed $125 billion annually, placing nematodes among the top most economically damaging plant pathogens.

Developing new control methods will require a more thorough understanding of the nematode-plant interactions. The goal of this project is to examine the plant-nematode relationship on a genetic level. The overall question addressed is: How does the genetic makeup of the nematode influence gene expression in its host plant?

This question will be answered using a modification of a genetic analysis tool called expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) mapping. Advanced DNA sequencing technology will be used to measure both gene expression levels in the plant and to identify genetic markers in the DNA of the nematode. Connections between the DNA of the nematode and the gene expression of the plant will be made using cross-species eQTL mapping strategies.

Additionally, various traits related to pathogenicity will be described during the course of the project. Ultimately, genetic markers in the nematode, gene expression levels in the host plant and in the nematode, and pathogenicity trait measurements will be used to infer entire plant-nematode genomic networks.