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​2020 APS Noel T. Keen Award

This award recognizes APS members for research excellence in molecular plant pathology who have made outstanding contributions and demonstrated sustained excellence and leadership in research that significantly advances the understanding of molecular aspects of host–pathogen interactions, plant pathogens or plant-associated microbes, or molecular biology of disease development or defense mechanisms. 

Shou-Wei Ding
University of California, Riverside​

Shou-Wei Ding was born in Anhui province, China. He received his BSc (Plant Protection) and MSc (Biology) from Anhui Agricultural College and Fudan University, respectively, in China. Ding moved to Australia and received his PhD in plant molecular biology from Australian National University. Following a brief postdoc at Agriculture Canada Vancouver, he went back to Australia and worked for five years at University of Adelaide, firstly as a postdoctoral fellow and later promoted to research fellow. From 1996 to 2000, he led a plant virology research laboratory at National University of Singapore. In 2000, Ding relocated to the Department of Plant Pathology at University of California, Riverside. He has been a full professor since 2005.

Ding is internationally recognized for his significant contributions to understanding the molecular basis of plant antiviral defense and virus counter-defense. In his PhD dissertation research in Adrian Gibbs' laboratory, Ding determined the nucleotide sequences of two tymoviral RNA genomes, constructed an infectious tymoviral cDNA clone, and revealed the close evolutionary relationship of tymoviruses with the morphologically distinct potexviruses and carlaviruses, which represent the three core virus families in the recently established order Tymovirales. He also identified the tymobox, a sequence block conserved in tymoviruses that he used successfully to develop genus-specific PCR primers for tymovirus identification. In the laboratory of Robert Symons, Ding discovered the 2b gene of cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and other cucumoviruses and showed that the 2b protein promotes systemic infection in plants by a mechanism he hypothesized to involve host defense suppression. This seminal contribution led the way for further studies on virus-encoded suppressors of RNAi (VSRs).

Ding's laboratory has been a major driving force in the discovery and mechanistic characterization of VSRs. Ding and collaborators identified the VSRs of CMV, tomato aspermy virus (TAV) and turnip yellow mosaic virus and showed that citrus tristeza virus encodes three distinct VSRs, enabling production by Leandro Peña of transgenic plants completely resistant to the devastating pathogen.  They discovered a widespread mechanism of plant VRSs to suppress the systemic spread of RNA silencing. They convincingly demonstrated a specific function of VSR in host defense suppression by illustrating that 2b was no longer required for CMV infection when host plants were made defective in antiviral RNA interference (RNAi). In 1999, they reported that host plants have evolved to overcome viral suppression of antiviral RNAi by activating the hypersensitive virus resistance mechanism to specifically recognize VSR. Recently, they discovered an exciting new function of CMV 2b in attracting aphid vectors by manipulating host hormone signaling.

Ding's research has greatly advanced our understanding of the mechanism controlling antiviral RNAi in plants. Using CMV infection of Arabidopsis thaliana as a model, Ding's laboratory independently illustrated the antiviral function of specific members in Dicer-like (DCL), RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RDR) and Argonaute (AGO) multigene families. Ding and his collaborators showed that plant antiviral defense requires amplification of virus-derived small interfering RNAs (vsiRNAs) by host RDR1 and RDR6, and that AGO1 and AGO2 act cooperatively downstream of vsiRNA amplification by loading different sets of vsiRNAs. They also discovered virus-activated siRNAs (vasiRNAs), a new class of plant endogenous siRNAs induced by virus infection to target thousands of host genes for silencing in a pathway involving DCL4, RDR1 and AGO2. Recently Ding's laboratory developed a sensitized genetic screen to identify A. thaliana genes required for antiviral RNAi and cloned two new genes essential for RDR1/RDR6-mediated amplification of vsiRNAs and RDR1-dependent biogenesis of vasiRNAs.

Ding also developed contemporary novel tools for the identification of viruses and viroids. His laboratory pioneered the use of next-generation sequencing technologies for characterizing the population of vsiRNAs produced during host response to virus infection. Ding and his colleagues showed that the host-produced vsiRNAs overlap in sequence despite being 21-24 nucleotides long and independently invented the method of virus identification by deep sequencing and computational assembly of vsiRNAs. Ding and colleagues further developed new computational algorithms for culture-independent identification of viroids based on their circular nature, and then discovered viroids that share little sequence similarity with the known species. These tools have enabled the identification of new and known viruses and viroids in laboratories not equipped to work on these pathogens.

Ding's contributions also extend to areas beyond plant-virus interactions. Ding's research has revealed antiviral RNAi as a major defense mechanism in insects and nematodes, which include species to serve as vectors of plant viruses. His genetic studies in model insect and nematode host species provided the molecular framework of the antiviral RNAi defense mechanism and assisted in understanding the interactions of plant viruses with their vectors. Recently, Ding and his collaborators showed that antiviral RNAi is also active in mammals.

Ding served as the founding plant pathogen section editor of PLoS Pathogens. He served as Phytopathology associate editor (2003-2005), FEBS Letters editor (2005-2009), and editorial board member of Journal of Biological Chemistry (2013-2018). He is currently a section editor of PloS Pathogens and an editorial board member of Virology (from 2005), Journal of Virology (from 2008) and Advances in Virus Research (from 2015). He has published more than 90 research papers, reviews, and book chapters, of which many have appeared in the most prestigious scientific journals (e.g., Science, Nature, PNAS, Plant Cell, EMBO Journal, Cell and Nature Reviews Immunology) that cater to cutting-edge science of interest to a broad spectrum of readers from all scientific disciplines. Ding has given more than 200 invited talks, including as the plant virology state-of-the-art lecturer at ASV annual meetings (2001/2011) and speaker/plenary speaker/keynote speaker at APS (2001/2005), ASV (2004), International Plant Pathology Congress (2011), International MPMI Congress (2005/2007/2012), and International Congress of Virology (2011). His research accomplishments are recognized by election as fellow of the AAAS (2006) and fellow of the ASM (2012). He has trained numerous graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and national/international visitors. In conclusion, Ding has made seminal contributions and demonstrated sustained excellence and leadership in research that significantly advances the understanding of molecular plant-virus interactions.

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