Guo-Liang Wang was born in 1961 in Hunan Province, China. He received his B.S. degree in plant genetics from Hunan Agricultural University in China in 1982 and his M.S. degree in plant genetics and breeding from Fujian Agricultural University in 1985. In 1988, he was admitted to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the University of Philippines as a Ph.D. candidate. After obtaining his Ph.D. degree in plant genetics and breeding in 1992, he worked for 1 year as a post-doctoral fellow at Texas A&M University before moving to the University of California-Davis to work with Pam Ronald for 3 years. From 1996 to 1999, he was a senior scientist at the National University of Singapore. In the end of 1999, Wang was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the Ohio State University (OSU) and was promoted to associate professor in 2004 and to full professor in 2008.
Wang is an internationally recognized leader in molecular genetics and genomics of plant defenses against pathogens, especially against the rice pathogens Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae and Magnaporthe oryzae. As an undergraduate at Hunan Agricultural University, he developed strong interest in plant disease resistance and screened rice cultivars for resistance to rice blast caused by M. oryzae. Working with D. Mackill, R. Nelson, and M. Bonman at IRRI, his Ph.D. work introduced him to the molecular basis of rice blast resistance. During his pioneering research, he used molecular marker techniques to show that both major genes and quantitative trait loci are essential for durability and broad-spectrum resistance in Moroberekan, a well-known African rice cultivar that exhibits durable resistance. In his post-doctoral position at the University of California-Davis, he was a major contributor for the successful cloning of Xa21, the first receptor-like kinase resistance gene in plants; Wang is a cofirst author on the Science paper describing this work. From 1996 to 1999, Wang established a laboratory at the National University of Singapore, where he worked on host resistance to X. oryzae pv. oryzae and M. oryzae. One of these projects, the cloning of Xa27, resulted in a collaborative publication in Nature.
Wang and his group are major players in the cloning and functional analysis of resistance genes in rice to M. oryzae. They cloned three broad-spectrum resistance genes, Pi2, Piz-t, and Pi9, that encode highly similar NBS-LRR proteins. The molecular markers linked to these resistance genes are widely used in marker-aided selection in rice breeding programs.
Wang’s group has led the field in understanding the link between ubiquitination and rice disease resistance. They found that AvrPiz-t, the cognate avirulence protein of Piz-t, suppresses the E3 ligase activity of a RING finger E3 ligase and degrades the protein. In return, the E3 ligase ubiquitinates and degrades AvrPiz-t. Functional analysis of the E3 ligase showed that it is a positive regulator of PAMP-triggered immunity and a negative regulator of the resistance protein Piz-t. These results revealed a new role of ubiquitination in fungal-plant interactions.
Wang and colleagues have made seminal contributions to our understanding of how the U-box E3 ubiquitin ligase SPL11 regulates defense and flowering in both rice and Arabidopsis. They first discovered that SPL11 is a negative regulator of cell death and defense in rice and then found that SPL11 is also involved in flowering time regulation. Recently, they found that the ortholog of SPL11 in Arabidopsis, called PUB13, also regulates both defense and flowering. Interestingly, the rice Spl11 gene can complement the phenotypes of the pub13 mutant in Arabidopsis, demonstrating that PUB13 and SPL11 are functionally conserved in regulating flowering time and cell death. Identification and characterization of PUB13 and SPL11 have provided the first example of a U-box/ARM E3 ligase that has dual functions in defense and flowering in plants.
Wang’s use of cutting-edge genomic technologies has not only revealed important pathways contributing to disease and resistance responses in plants, but it has also provided critical functional genomic resources to the cereal research community. For example, the large sets of rice defense response gene expression data he and his collaborators generated using long-serial analysis of gene expression (LongSAGE), massively parallel signature sequencing (MPSS), and sequencing-by-synthesis (SBS) methods are widely mined by researchers studying plant responses to biological and abiotic stresses.
Wang has published more than 100 peer-refereed journal articles and book chapters since receiving his Ph.D. degree. The papers appear in respected international journals such as Plant Cell, PNAS, and Plant Physiology. The Wang laboratory has been well funded by NSF, USDA, Rockefeller Foundation, DOE, USAID-IRRI, and industry. In the last 10 years, he has contributed to raising more than $30 million, with $6.5 million directly supporting his program at OSU.
Wang is highly committed to the education of students and post-doctoral fellows. In the last 12 years, Wang has supervised seven Ph.D. students and many undergraduate students. He has also trained 13 post-doctoral fellows and hosted eight visiting graduate students and scholars from other countries. Wang’s expertise is in high demand, especially in Asian countries where rice is an important crop. He has presented more than 81 invited talks at national and international institutions and conferences. Wang is actively involved in APS activities and has served on several committees, including Molecular and Cellular Phytopathology, the Present Status and Future of the Profession of Plant Pathology, and the APS-CSPP Working Group. Wang received the DuPont Young Professor Award (2000); Outstanding Overseas Young Scientist Award of China (2001); Fu-Rong Scholar from Hunan Province, China (2003); OARDC Distinguished Junior Faculty Research Award (2005); Syngenta Award of APS (2006); Research Award of Merit, Gamma Sigma Delta (2007); and Chang-Jiang Scholar from Ministry of Education, China (2009). He is an editor for Plant Physiology, Rice, and Journal of Plant Biology, and he is the coorganizer of the Rice Functional Genomics Workshop at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference.