Evolutionary genomics of plant-pathogen interactions

Evolutionary Genetics

Most plants face attacks by fungal pathogens. In agriculture, outbreaks of diseases are frequent and pose a significant threat to sustainable food production. What enables pathogens to overcome host defenses and cause damage is poorly understood. A key evolutionary step for pathogens is to evolve effectors that specifically target and disable the plant immune system.

Our group uses experimental and population genomics tools to analyze the rapid emergence of pathogens. A major focus is to use genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to directly identify the genes in pathogen genomes linked to the breakdown of host resistance. We also assemble complete genomes to analyze mechanisms that generate high degrees of sequence polymorphism. We are particularly interested in the action of transposable elements (selfish elements in the genome) and the evolution of gene regulation. Our group also conducts population genomic studies to analyze the process of adaptive evolution in natural field populations.


Recent Publications

  • Mapping the adaptive landscape of a major agricultural pathogen reveals evolutionary constraints across heterogeneous environments
    Dutta, Anik; Hartmann, Fanny E.; Francisco, Carolina Sardinha; McDonald, Bruce A.; Croll, Daniel
    Isme Journal, 10.1038/s41396-020-00859-w  MAY 2021
  • Emergence and diversification of a highly invasive chestnut pathogen lineage across southeastern Europe
    Stauber, Lea; Badet, Thomas; Feurtey, Alice; Prospero, Simone; Croll, Daniel
    Elife,   10.7554/eLife.56279  MAR 5 2021
  • The Genetic Architecture of Emerging Fungicide Resistance in Populations of a Global Wheat Pathogen
    Pereira, Danilo; McDonald, Bruce A.; Croll, Daniel
    Genome Biology And Evolution,  10.1093/gbe/evaa203   DEC 2020
  • The complex genomic basis of rapid convergent adaptation to pesticides across continents in a fungal plant pathogen
    Hartmann, Fanny E.; Vonlanthen, Tiziana; Singh, Nikhil Kumar; McDonald, Megan C.; Milgate, Andrew; et al.
    Molecular Ecology, 10.1111/mec.15737   DEC 2020
  • The rise and fall of genes: origins and functions of plant pathogen pangenomes
    Badet, Thomas; Croll, Daniel
    Current Opinion In Plant Biology  DOI: 10.1016/j.pbi.2020.04.009  AUG 2020
  • A Chromosome-Scale Genome Assembly for the Fusarium oxysporum Strain Fo5176 To Establish a Model Arabidopsis-Fungal Pathosystem
    Fokkens, Like; Guo, Li; Dora, Susanne; Wang, Bo; Ye, Kai; Sanchez-Rodriguez, Clara; Croll, Daniel
    G3-genes Genomes Genetics   DOI: 10.1534/g3.120.401375  OCT 2020
  • Transcriptome plasticity underlying plant root colonization and insect invasion by Pseudomonas protegens
    Vesga, Pilar; Flury, Pascale; Vacheron, Jordan; Keel, Christoph; Croll, Daniel; Maurhofer M
    Isme Journal  DOI: 10.1038/s41396-020-0729-9    NOV 2020
  • Comparative Genomics Analyses of Lifestyle Transitions at the Origin of an Invasive Fungal Pathogen in the Genus Cryphonectria
    Stauber, Lea; Prospero, Simone; Croll, Daniel
    Msphere  DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00737-20  SEP-OCT 2020
  • Maintenance of variation in virulence and reproduction in populations of an agricultural plant pathogen
    Dutta, Anik; Croll, Daniel; McDonald, Bruce A.; Barrett, Luke G.
    Evolutionary Applications  DOI: 10.1111/eva.13117 SEP 2020
  • Genome compartmentalization predates species divergence in the plant pathogen genus Zymoseptoria
    Feurtey, Alice; Lorrain, Cecile; Croll, Daniel; Eschenbrenner, Christoph; Freitag, Michael; et al.
    Bmc Genomics  DOI: 10.1186/s12864-020-06871-w  AUG 26 2020
  • Natural selection drives population divergence for local adaptation in a wheat pathogen
    Pereira, Danilo; Croll, Daniel; Brunner, Patrick C.; McDonald, Bruce A.
    Fungal Genetics And Biology  DOI: 10.1016/j.fgb.2020.103398  AUG 2020
  • A Chromosome-Scale Genome Assembly for the Fusarium oxysporum Strain Fo5176 To Establish a Model Arabidopsis-Fungal Pathosystem
    Fokkens, Like; Guo, Li; Dora, Susanne; Wang, Bo; Ye, Kai; Sanchez-Rodriguez, Clara; Croll, Daniel
    G3-genes Genomes Genetics 10.1534/g3.120.401375 OCT 2020
  • A secreted LysM effector protects fungal hyphae through chitin-dependent homodimer polymerization
    Sanchez-Vallet, Andrea; Tian, Hui; Rodriguez-Moreno, Luis; Valkenburg, Dirk-Jan; Saleem-Batcha, Raspudin; et al.
    Plos Pathogens  DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008652  JUN 2020
  • Chromosomal assembly and analyses of genome-wide recombination rates in the forest pathogenic fungus Armillaria ostoyae
    Heinzelmann, Renate; Rigling, Daniel; Sipos, Gyorgy; Muensterkoetter, Martin; Croll, Daniel
    Heredity  DOI: 10.1038/s41437-020-0306-z   MAR 2020
  • Purging of highly deleterious mutations through severe bottlenecks in Alpine ibex
    Grossen, Christine; Guillaume, Frederic; Keller, Lukas F.; Croll, Daniel
    Nature Communications,  11(1) Number: 1001  DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14803-1  FEB 21 2020
  • Stress-Driven Transposable Element De-repression Dynamics and Virulence Evolution in a Fungal Pathogen
    Fouche, Simone; Badet, Thomas; Oggenfuss, Ursula; Plissonneau, Clemence; Francisco, Carolina Sardinha; Croll Daniel
    Molecular Biology And Evolution  DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msz216  JAN 2020
  • A 19-isolate reference-quality global pangenome for the fungal wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici
    Badet, Thomas; Oggenfuss, Ursula; Abraham, Leen; McDonald, Bruce A.; Croll, Daniel
    Bmc Biology 18(1) Article Number: 12 DOI: 10.1186/s12915-020-0744-3  FEB 11 2020
  • Complex Evolutionary Origins of Specialized Metabolite Gene Cluster Diversity among the Plant Pathogenic Fungi of the Fusarium graminearum Species Complex
    Tralamazza, Sabina Moser; Rocha, Liliana Oliveira; Oggenfuss, Ursula; Correa, Benedito; Croll, Daniel
    Genome Biology And Evolution, 10.1093/gbe/evz225, NOV 2019
  • The emergence of the multi-species NIP1 effector in Rhynchosporium was accompanied by high rates of gene duplications and losses
    Mohd-Assaad, N; McDonald, BA; Croll, D
    ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, 21 (8):2677-2695; 10.1111/1462-2920.14583 AUG 2019
  • Cautionary Notes on Use of the MoT3 Diagnostic Assay for Magnaporthe oryzae Wheat and Rice Blast Isolates
    Gupta, DR; Avila, CSR; Win, J; Soanes, DM; Ryder, LS; Croll, D; Bhattacharjee, P; Hossain, MS; Mahmud, NU; Mehebub, MS; Surovy, MZ; Rahman, MM; Talbot, NJ; Kamoun, S; Islam, MT
    PHYTOPATHOLOGY, 109 (4):504-508; 10.1094/PHYTO-06-18-0199-LE APR 2019

Prof. Dr. Daniel Croll
University of Neuchâtel
Institute of Biology
2000 Neuchâtel

Tel: +41 (0)32 718 23 30

Research topics

  • Genetic basis of pathogen virulence
  • Ecological genomics and local adaptation of pathogens
  • Population genomics of pathogen outbreaks
  • Structure and evolution of pathogen genomes
  • Transposable elements and the evolution of gene regulation


  • Crop resistance breeding
  • Bioinformatics and genome assembly
  • Molecular plant pathology
  • Fungal community analyses
  • Genome-wide association mapping (GWAS)