Dr. You-Liang Peng received his B.S. degree in Plant Protection from Huazhong Agricultural University in China in 1982. He received his M.S. (1986) and Ph.D. degrees (1989) in Plant Pathology from Kyoto University. He was a postdoctoral fellow for three years at Mitsui Plant Biotechnology Research Institute. In 1992, he was appointed associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the China Agricultural University (CAU) and was promoted to full professor in 1993.
Dr. Peng has made seminal contributions to advancements in the field of plant fungal biology, to the development of effective control methods for rice diseases, and to the promotion of international collaborations among plant pathologists. His research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of pathogenesis and variation in Magnaporthe oryzae, the causal pathogen of rice blast disease. His Ph.D. dissertation on the cytology and biochemistry of the resistance (R) gene-mediated response to rice blast revealed that R genes are expressed after fungal penetration and that the activation of a lipoxygenase pathway is important for resistance to M. oryzae. The five published papers from his Ph.D. dissertation have been cited over 300 times. During his postdoctoral training he cloned and characterized the blast fungus-induced lipoxygenase gene; this work was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1994 and has been cited over 170 times. At CAU, he initiated a series of projects aimed at “green control” of the rice blast disease. His research has involved in the identification of pathogen-specific and pathogenicity-essential genes in M. oryzae, the deployment of R genes in rice in accordance with pathotype dynamics in M. oryzae, and the search for genetic resources in rice with durable resistance to M. oryzae. Dr. Peng’s group characterized mutants for each of the seven chitin synthase genes (Chs1-7) in M. oryzae, and demonstrated that only Chs6 is essential for pathogenicity. This discovery provided a new lead for designing chemicals targeting specific chitin synthases for the control of this devastating pathogen. Dr. Peng’s laboratory also found that Alg3, an ER-localized alpha-1,3-mannosyltransferase, is essential for virulence and is required for N-glycosylation of Slp1 and BAS4, and that without the modification, Slp1 loses its biological functions. This discovery revealed why N-glycosylation is important for fungal pathogenesis and suggested that N-glycosylation of effector proteins is a widely conserved mechanism in fungal pathogens. His group has generated a large number of insertional mutants of M. oryzae, which have been used by researchers around the world. Additionally, they determined genome sequences of M. oryzae field isolates and the rice false smut fungus Ustilaginoidea viren, which are publicly available and are important resources for the research community.
Peng is a strong supporter of education in plant pathology. Since 1992, he has developed and taught the courses Molecular Plant Pathology, Plant Pathology Seminars, and Frontiers in Plant Protection at CAU. Dr. Peng has supervised more than 50 Ph.D. students, 70 M.S. students, and many undergraduate students, including four graduate students who hold full professor, associate professor, or assistant professor positions in universities in the United States.
Dr. Peng’s expertise is in high demand, especially in China and Asia. He has presented more than 60 invited talks at national and international institutions and conferences. Peng served as the project leader for fifteen years for the key basic research programs of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), China. He was a member of the editorial board for the Annual Review of Phytopathology and Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, and was the Editor-in-Chief for the Chinese Journal of Plant Pathology and Associate Editor for the Journal of General Plant Pathology. Peng is highly committed to the development of plant pathology in China. As President of the Chinese Society of Plant Pathology (CSPP) (2002-2010, 2014-present), Peng initiated the annual meeting of CSPP and helped develop many projects on plant disease control in China. Through these projects, Chinese plant pathologists have received financial support of over 2 billion RMB from the Chinese Government. As the Chairperson, Dr. Peng organized the Tenth International Congress of Plant Pathology in Beijing in 2013. In 2006, Dr. Peng and Dr. Martyn, APS President, signed a collaborative agreement between CSPP and APS, which has significantly enhanced academic exchanges for Sino-US plant pathologists. Dr. Peng received the Outstanding Young Scientist Award of China (1995) and the Professorship of the Chang-Jiang Scholars from MOE, China (1999), and was elected a CSPP Fellow (2015).