Guo-Liang Wang is being nominated for the APS Syngenta Award for his numerous and significant contributions on the molecular genetics and genomics of plant and microbe interactions, especially on the elucidation of the molecular basis of host resistance to two important rice pathogens: Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae and Magnaporthe grisea. In a few short years, he has become one of the leading scientists on molecular genetics and genomics of plant disease resistance, and has opened up new research territory for numerous investigators. His work on rice, the staple food of billions of people around the world, has had wide reaching impact. His highly significant research contributions include the isolation and characterization of several broad-spectrum resistance genes to X. oryzae pv. oryzae and M. grisea as well as pioneering the use of the LongSAGE and MPSS technologies for defense transcriptome analysis. The bacterial blight resistance gene Xa21 cloned by Wang and his colleagues when he was a post-doc fellow in Pam Ronald’s laboratory at UC Davis is being widely used in China, India, and other Southeast Asian countries to engineer broad-spectrum and durably resistant rice cultivars. Generation of a large set of rice expressed sequence tags (ESTs), LongSAGE and MPSS tags, from X. oryzae pv. oryzae- and M. grisea-infected rice plants by his group has provided the scientific community with very useful genomic resources for functional analysis of defense genes in rice and other cereals. Wang’s lab has been extremely well-funded from sources as diverse as NSF, USDA, Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, and industry. Since his Ohio State University appointment in October 1999, he contributed to raising more than $18 million in funds, of which $3.7 million directly supported his program.
Wang received his B.S. degree in plant genetics from the Hunan Agricultural University in China in 1982. He then attended the Fujian Agricultural University where he received his M.S. degree in plant genetics and breeding in 1985. In June 1988, he was admitted to the International Rice Research Institute and the University of Philippines as a Ph.D. candidate. After he obtained his Ph.D. degree in plant genetics and breeding in June 1992, he served as a post-doctoral fellow at Texas A&M University with Andrew Patterson for one year before joining UC Davis to work with Pam Ronald on the map-based cloning of the Xa21 gene. From June 1996 to September 1999, he was a senior scientist and principle investigator at the Institute of Molecular Agrobiology, National University of Singapore. In October 1998, Wang was appointed assistant professor of plant molecular genetics at the Ohio State University (OSU), Department of Plant Pathology, and was promoted to associate professor in 2004. His appointment is 70% research and 30% teaching.
Wang has made several outstanding contributions to the science of plant pathology that have been described in 50 journal articles and book chapters. One major accomplishment involved the cloning and characterization of the first rice resistance gene Xa21, which he published in Science in 1995 as a co-first author. Xa21 is the first plant resistance gene encoding a receptor-like protein kinase. He then isolated and characterized another gene, Xa21D, that confers partial resistance to X. oryzae pv. oryzae and published the paper in Plant Cell. When he established his lab at the National University of Singapore, he initiated several new projects aiming at understanding the molecular basis of host resistance to X. oryzae pv. oryzae and M. grisea. One of these projects resulted in a collaborative publication in Nature on the first example of R gene regulation through activation of gene expression by its cognate avirulence gene. At OSU, Wang has continued to work on the rice blast resistance projects and expanded his research into the emerging plant genomics area. In collaboration with his students and post-docs, he cloned in the last few years four genes that confer broad-spectrum resistance to rice blast. Cloning of these genes provided an excellent starting point to identify the critical domains governing the resistance specificities to pathogens and evolution of resistance gene clusters. Transformation of these four rice blast resistance genes into susceptible rice cultivars that are grown in the United States and other countries may have a great impact on rice production and food security in developing countries. Another important finding from his lab was the cloning of the first plant U-box/ARM repeat gene that regulates the program cell death and disease resistance. The new findings from this study were recently published in the most respected plant science journal, Plant Cell. In addition, in the last 3 years, the Wang laboratory has been actively involved in plant genomics studies and generated about 70,000 rice ESTs, 1.5 million LongSAGE tags, and over 30 million MPSS tags as part of two NSF-Plant Genome Program funded projects. All these sequences were submitted to public databases and are a tremendous genomic resource for the community.
Wang is highly committed to the education of students in the areas of plant genetics, molecular biology, and genomics. In 2000, he developed a new course called Agricultural Genomics together with Sophien Kamoun in the Department of Plant Pathology at OSU. This is the first course on agricultural genomics offered at OSU, and the course content is contemporary. Wang also developed four new genomics lab sessions in the laboratory course PP/HCS604.03. He played important roles in the Kowlett seminar, the interdepartmental graduate program in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (PMBB). He also co-organized the molecular plant–microbe interactions symposium, a research forum at OSU. Wang currently is supervising four Ph.D. level graduate students and three undergraduate students. He also has supervised five post-doc fellows in his lab. He has hosted six NSF REU summer intern students in the last 3 years.
Wang’s knowledge and expertise is in much demand around the world, especially in Asian countries where rice is an important crop. Over the years, he offered more than 45 invited seminars and presentations at several national and international institutions, as well as at international conferences, including the Keystone Conference; the Gordon Conference; Plant, Animal and Microbe Genomes Conference; the Rice Functional Genomics Meeting; and Rice Genetics Meeting. There is a steady stream of international scholars visiting his laboratory, to either learn techniques about molecular genetics, plant–microbe interactions, or genomics. Wang has served as a panel member in two USDA-National Research Initiative programs. He has served as an ad-hoc reviewer for more than 15 journals and more than seven grant agencies or research foundations. In 2005, Wang received the OARDC Junior Research Award in recognition of his significant contributions.