From Behavior to Molecules in Plant-Microbe-Insect Interactions (PP590/ENT591; 3 Credit-Hours)

In pest management and to leverage beneficial microbes and insects in agriculture and urban environments, it is important to understand what interactions (plant-microbe, plant-insect, insect-insect, insect-microbes) impact insect life cycles and behaviors. These interactions are frequently driven by chemical signals that affect the behavior of interacting organisms. Lectures cover fundamental philosophy and current chemical ecology, specific examples of well-studied interactions, and approaches and methods based on recent publications. A section of laboratory work is dedicated to current developments in analytical methods. Students will have the opportunity to apply learned techniques in a small laboratory research project.

Learning Outcomes. The overall goal of the course is to provide students with an understanding how plants, insects, and microorganisms interact with each other via chemicals. After successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

1) Describe chemical interactions between plants, insects, and microorganisms generally and with specific examples
2) Discuss how communication between plants and microbes occurs on a molecular basis and how these communication mechanisms can hijacked
3) Identify classes of signals produced by plants, fungi, bacteria, and insects
4) Understand and apply laboratory methods to study chemical interactions (including methods for analysis of chemosensory-based insect behavior, semiochemicals, insect sensory physiology)
5) Review and critique current research papers in the field of phytobiome interactions
6) Understand and design the integrated experiments in basic chemical ecology

Prerequisites. The course is intended for graduate students and provides an understanding of biochemical interactions between plants, microbes, insects, and the environment. Students with interdisciplinary interests in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Plant Biology, Microbiology, Biological and Chemical Engineering, and related disciplines are welcome. No specific prior knowledge in the specific course area is required. Advanced undergraduate students can be admitted with the permission of the instructor.

Instructors. Dr. Oliver Baars (obaars@ncsu.edu) and Dr. Ayako Katsumata (akatsum@ncsu.edu)