Pradeep Kachroo was born in India, where he received his B.S. degree at the University of Delhi in 1987 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Baroda in 1989 and 1995, respectively. A portion of his dissertation research was conducted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, through a graduate fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. He conducted research as a post-doctoral scholar at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University, and the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University. Kachroo joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky in the Department of Plant Pathology in 2002 and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2007 and to full professor in 2013.
Kachroo studies one of the great enigmas in biology, one that pertains not only to plants and their pathogens, which is his focus, but also to animals, including humans, and their causal agents of disease. Namely, how, in terms of biochemical, genetic, and molecular mechanisms, does an individual cell or a whole organism perceive that it is under attack? What pathways do signals follow to activate responses normally quiescent in the everyday metabolism of a healthy, unprovoked cell? To address these questions, Kachroo has guided his research group through a series of elegant studies that have yielded new insights into plant resistance to infectious diseases caused by a range of microbes and viruses. Their findings have greatly improved our understanding of cellular signaling in response to pathogen attack, thereby enhancing prospects of utilizing both natural and engineered plant resistance to sustainably control plant disease and enhance crop production.
Kachroo’s group has made multiple advances that are foundational to our understanding of plant disease resistance. They demonstrated that glycerol-3-phosphate (G3P), an essential metabolite and precursor for the biosynthesis of all plant glycerolipids, also serves as an important mobile signal in systemic acquired resistance (SAR). More recently, they showed that free radicals such as nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species function upstream of G3P in the SAR pathway. The basis for the systemic signaling regulating SAR has been a major mystery since the finding that, although salicylic acid is clearly involved in SAR, it is not the mobile signal that passes from induced tissues to the rest of the plant. Identification of a mobile signal has been a major objective for decades, and the discovery of the role of G3P and free radicals by the Kachroo group represents a major advance in plant pathology. Reflecting its significance, the G3P work was published in Nature Genetics, recommended by the Faculty of 1000, and reviewed in Science Daily.
Another significant finding by Kachroo’s group is that the plant cuticle plays an active role in disease resistance. While the cuticle is widely understood to be a physical barrier against infection and water loss, its role as an active participant in disease resistance was a novel finding. Yet another major advance provided by the Kachroo laboratory has been on the role of light in disease resistance. For example, their 2010 paper on regulation of viral defense by CRYPTOCHROME 2 and PHOTOTROPIN 2, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), was also highlighted by the Faculty of 1000.
Thus, over the past 10 years, Kachroo’s laboratory has made several major advances in describing the underlying mechanisms and signaling pathways leading to plant disease resistance. Exploiting the numerous genetic advantages provided by Arabidopsis thaliana and by various bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens, Kachroo’s program has opened up new dimensions, demonstrating the involvement of lipid components such as G3P and oleic acid in both the salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA) resistance-signaling pathways. His group has integrated genetic and biochemical studies to gain insights into the underlying regulatory mechanisms that control signaling from the transcriptional through the post-translational (protein and metabolic) levels. In all, Kachroo’s experimental dissection of the complex network of interconnected pathways is helping to unravel the metabolic intricacies underlying disease resistance. Such advances in basic knowledge have significant implications for disease control.
Kachroo directs a dynamic research group, including numerous graduate students, post-doctorates, and visiting faculty, as well as undergraduate research interns. His very impressive funding record includes 14 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) awards from the National Science Foundation, demonstrating his commitment to experiential education of college students. He is also diligent in assuring that his laboratory personnel publish in leading peer-reviewed journals and make presentations at major national and international scientific meetings. The publishing and presentation experiences gained by his junior associates help assure their own professional advancement. This is the hallmark of a first-rate mentor, ensuring that his mentees are schooled at the very leading edge of their discipline, ready to serve in science’s vanguard.
Kachroo has published 52 refereed papers and 12 book chapters or reviews and has one patent issued and another pending. He consistently publishes in the leading journals in his field, including Nature Genetics, PNAS, Plant Cell, Cell Host & Microbe, Cell Reports, PLoS Pathogens, and PLoS Genetics. Since 2004, Kachroo has been an invited speaker 33 times in nine different countries, including presentations to The American Phytopathological Society (APS), the American Society of Plant Biologists, and the International Society of Plant-Microbe Interactions. He served as chair and vice chair of the APS Host Resistance Committee. Kachroo also serves on the editorial boards of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Current Opinion in Plant Biology, BMC-Plant Biology, and Plant Signaling and Behavior.