Anne E. Desjardins
Anne E. Desjardins was born in Bangor, Maine. She received a B.A. degree in chemistry from the University of Maine in 1971. In 1974, she began graduate studies in biochemistry at Emory University, completing her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1976 and 1979, respectively. After graduating from Emory, Desjardins joined the lab of Peter Albersheim at the University of Colorado. In 1981, she moved to Cornell University and worked with Hans VanEtten on pisatin demethylase from Nectria haematococca. Desjardins joined the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Peoria, Illinois in 1984 where she now holds the position of research biochemist.
Desjardins is an internationally recognized authority in Fusarium mycotoxicology and a leader of research with an unprecedented combination of molecular biology and genetic engineering, natural products chemistry, and plant pathology under realistic field research conditions. This research has made progress toward solving the intractable problems of Fusarium mycotoxins in agricultural commodities. Original insights include identifying biological diversity of mycotoxigenic Fusarium species in unique agroecosystems; identifying, developing, and utilizing systems for classical genetic analysis of mycotoxin production in Fusarium/ Gibberella species; applying classical and molecular genetic systems to test the importance of mycotoxins and phytoalexins in plant disease; and field testing of genetically engineered plantpathogenic fungi. Desjardins’ broad research experience, diversiVol. fied interests, and creative insights in the area of plant–fungal interactions have led to the development of novel approaches and methods for study of the complex natural systems where mycotoxins occur. Desjardins is internationally recognized for the first rigorous demonstration of the significance of any mycotoxin (trichothecenes) in plant pathogenesis, and for the first USDAAPHIS approved field test (in 1994) of any genetically engineered plant-pathogenic fungus.
As part of a multidisciplinary team, Desjardins plied her skills in chemistry and biochemistry to resolve the biosynthetic pathway of the trichothecene mycotoxins in F. sporotrichioides and G. zeae and more recently the fumonisin pathway in G. moniliformis. Building on these studies, she and her colleagues showed that the pathway enzymes for both of these mycotoxins are encoded by gene clusters. Desjardins also used classical genetics and genetically engineered strains to show that trichothecene mycotoxins are virulence factors while the production of fumonisin is not required for G. moniliformis to cause maize ear infection and ear rot. Her work on the role of trichothecenes in the virulence of G. zeae has provided the foundation for other research programs in the United States, Canada, and Austria aimed at improving head blight resistance in wheat using genes that confer trichothecene resistance.
Desjardins is senior author of 39 and co-author of an additional 39 refereed journal articles. She is recognized as an expert in plant–fungal interactions, in roles of fungal and plant secondary metabolites in plant disease, and in application of rigorous methods of classical and molecular genetics to study complex agricultural systems. Her international stature, recognition, and impact are evidenced by 26 invited review articles and book chapters. She has just completed a book published this year by APS PRESS entitled, Fusarium Mycotoxins: Chemistry, Genetics, and Biology. Widely sought as a speaker for national and international meetings, Desjardins has given 85 invited presentations.
Desjardins has also served the discipline of plant pathology through service on grant panels and study sections, and as a member on editorial boards. She served as a member on five USDA/NRI Plant Pathology Panels and as manager in 1994. In 2004, she served as a member of the USDA/NRI Plant Microbe Associations Panel. Desjardins served as an associate editor of Phytopathology and she currently is an associate editor for both Fungal Genetics and Biology and Applied and Environmental Microbiology, and is on the advisory board of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Throughout her career, Desjardins has maintained a strong interest in international agriculture, especially in Nepal where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. In 1997, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for research on natural occurrence of Fusarium mycotoxins in Nepali food grains and the effect of traditional methods of food processing. Under this program, Desjardins worked for 6 months in the Plant Pathology Division of the Nepal Agricultural Research Council near Kathmandu, Nepal. She identified Fusarium species, analyzed trichothecenes and fumonisins in food grains by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay methods, and trained Nepalese scientists in Fusarium mycotoxicology. This work aided maize breeders in Nepal and at CIMMYT in developing germ plasm resistant to ear rot. This work was featured in a symposium on international perspectives on food safety and security at the 2001 Annual Meeting of The American Phytopathological Society and on the APS website. In early 2006, Desjardins completed her seventh trip to Nepal, working for 3 months as a U.S. Embassy Science Fellow on the use of biotechnology to conserve plant biodiversity in Nepal.
Desjardins also was awarded a National Agricultural Library Travel Grant for a visiting Chinese scientist to collaborate on a 2000 NAL website article entitled, Recent Advances in Wheat Head Scab Research in China. This work is a translation and critical evaluation of 174, mainly Chinese language, articles published since 1980 on the biology of G. zeae, breeding for resistance, and other methods for disease control in China. In 2004, she collaborated on a new NAL website article entitled, Milho, Makka, and Yu Mai: Early Journeys of Zea mays to Asia, which chronicles the post-Columbian migration of maize to Nepal, China, and other Asian countries. Both articles have been widely used, with up to 5,000 web views per month for the article on maize in Asia.
Clearly, Desjardins is an internationally recognized expert leader in the biochemistry and genetics of secondary metabolite biosynthesis in fungi. Her body of work on Fusarium; her reviewing and editing responsibilities for Phytopathology, Fungal Genetics and Biology, and other microbiology journals; her review articles on Fusarium/Gibberella; and her book on Fusarium demonstrate that she is a world leader in fungal biology, particularly Fusarium biology.