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Prof. Dr. Ulla Bonas

Microbiology/Molecular Phytopathology, University of Halle-Wittenberg

Prof. Dr. Ulla Bonas

Prof. Dr. Ulla Bonas

© DFG / David Ausserhofer

Ulla Bonas is a world-leading expert on the interactions of pathogenic bacteria and their host plants. As a microbiologist Bonas has studied Xanthomonas campestris pv. Vesicatoria (Xcv), a plant pathogen to which bell pepper and tomato plants are particularly prone, for the last twenty years, focussing her efforts on AvrBs3,one of the pathogen's main avirulence genes. In a series of sensational studies, Bonas cloned and characterised the AvrBs3 gene, and went on to successfully analyse its functions, which the gene uses to drive cell growth by tricking its host plant into supplying nutrients. Bonas showed that in more resistant plants, the bond to the Bs3 gene triggers a suicide programme which kills off the cell and cuts off the pathogen's supply of nutrients, enabling the host plant to effectively "turn the tables" on the bacteria. Bonas' work marked a fundamental advance in our understanding of plant-microbial interactions. Her findings are especially valuable for the development of new biotechnologies as they show how genes can be switched on and off.

After studying biology and completing her doctorate in Cologne, Ulla Bonas first studied Xcv as a post-doctoral research fellow at Berkeley, and continued this research in Berlin and, as a DFG Heisenberg Fellow, in France. Bonas has researched at the University of Halle-Wittenberg since 1994, where she is a Professor of Genetics at the Institute of Biology. With a reputation as an especially imaginative researcher and a talented networker, Bonas is highly regarded for her commitment to the support of early career researchers.