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​2024 Fellow: Hailing Jin​

Hailing Jin has been internationally recognized as a leader in the field of small RNAs and epigenetics in plant-pathogen interactions. She received her Ph.D. degree from the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1996. She conducted postdoctoral work at the John Innes Center and University of California, Berkeley. She joined the University of California, Riverside in 2004 and is currently a professor and the Cy Mouradick Endowed Chair. Dr. Jin's impactful achievement is reflected by her high-quality publications and numerous invitations to present at international conferences and institutions. She has published a total of 106 peer-reviewed papers with an H index of 62 and an i10 index of 99. She was a Web of Science highly cited researcher in 2019. She has given 244 invited talks, 44 of which were keynote and plenary remarks, and award lectures. Because of her great contribution to the field, she became an elected senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a CIFAR Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. All her research findings are highly original (summarized below). 

Dr. Jin's lab made a groundbreaking discovery in small RNA trafficking between plant hosts and fungal pathogens, which named cross-kingdom RNA interference (RNAi). They found that noncoding regulatory small RNAs from fungal pathogens can move across the organismal boundaries to host cells and silence host defense genes to suppress host immunity (Weiberg A. et al., Science, 2013). Such cross-kingdom RNAi phenomenon was observed later in many other plant-fungal, plant-oomycete, and plant-parasitic plant-interaction systems. It is not only present in the pathogenic interactions, recent reports show that cross-kingdom RNAi is also present in symbiotic interactions, indicating that cross-kingdom RNAi is evolutionarily conserved in the interacting systems between pathogens/pests and their plant hosts. Most strikingly, small RNA trafficking has also been observed between animal hosts and their microbial pathogens and parasites, which further demonstrates the great impact of this paradigm-shifting discovery. Dr. Jin's lab further demonstrated that such cross-kingdom small RNA trafficking is bidirectional (Wang M. et al., Nature Plants, 2016). They discovered that plants utilize extracellular vesicles, mainly exosomes, to deliver small RNAs into interacting fungal pathogens to silence their virulence genes (Cai et al., Science, 2018; He et al., Nature Plants, 2021), revealing that plants have adapted extracellular vesicle-mediated cross-kingdom RNAi as part of plant immune responses during the coevolutionary arms race with interaction pathogens. They further show that fungal pathogens also use extracellular vesicles to protect and transport small RNAs for cross-kingdom RNAi (He et al., Nature Communications, 2023). Thus, Dr. Jin's significant findings established a new research field—cross-kingdom/cross-organism RNAi between plant and animal hosts with their interacting organisms. 

The second research focus in Dr. Jin's lab is the discovery and characterization of an array of plant endogenous small RNAs that play a critical role in regulating host immunity against infection of bacterial and fungal pathogens. Her lab identified the first plant siRNA that regulate plant immunity (Huang et al., Cell Host and Microbe, 2021; Niu et al., Nature Communications, 2016; Zhang et al., Genome Biology, 2012; Zhang et al., Genome Biology, 2010; Katiyar-Agarwal et al., Genes and Development, 2007; Katiyar-Agarwal et al., PNAS, 2006). Her lab also identified the key components of small RNA pathway in response to bacterial infection and elucidated the regulatory mechanism of Argonaute proteins in plant immunity. These findings also were published in highly respected journals, including Nature Communications (Hu et al., 2019, Zhang et al., 2014), Molecular Cell (Zhang et al., 2011), Nucleic Acid Research (Chellappan et al., 2010), New Phytologist (Wang et al., 2017), etc. 

Dr. Jin has made significant and innovative contributions to both basic and applied research areas in the plant disease resistance field. Her research not only discovered cross-kingdom RNAi and the importance of extracellular vesicles in communications between hosts and microbes/pests, but also contributed to the development of effective RNA delivery strategies in controlling eukaryotic pathogens for plant protection. Dr. Jin's lab was the first to demonstrate that many fungal pathogens can take up RNAs from the environment (Wang et al., Nature Plants, 2016; Qiao et al., Plant Biotechnology Journal, 2021), which led to the development of spray-induced gene-silencing methods to control fungal diseases using RNA-based reagents. Her lab further developed innovative nanotechnologies to protect and deliver pathogen gene-targeting RNAs using various nanovesicles and inorganic nanoparticles, such as nanoclay, for plant protection (Qiao et al., Plant Biotechnology Journal. 2023; Niño-Sánchez et al., Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, 2022). These studies led to multiple inventions for RNA-based antifungal solutions for fungal disease control. 

The third research focus in the Jin lab is to understand the disease mechanism and develop innovative eco-friendly strategies to control Huanglongbing (HLB), a devastating citrus disease that causes more than 70% reduction of citrus production in Florida and threatens the entire citrus industry globally. Jin lab identified the key cause of HLB disease symptomology, which is Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus-caused phosphorus deficiency (Zhao et al., Molecular Plants 2013). Her lab recently discovered a novel class of stable antimicrobial peptides from Australian finger lime, which not only kills the bacterium, but also induces plant innate immunity (Huang et al., PNAS, 2021). Her major effort is to utilize multiple approaches to express or apply this peptide to treat and even prevent citrus HLB.​ 

Jin's discoveries provide breakthroughs in our understanding of plant‐pathogen interactions, and they afford agriculture new opportunities for effective means of disease control. She holds nine patents and three provisionals on technology developments for plant protection. Dr. Jin received a prestigious NSF Career Award at the beginning of her career and has since been supported continuously by grants from NSF and NIH. She also serves as the leading PI on multiple USDA grants to combat citrus HLB disease.​