Plant-Pathogen Interaction Team

Monika Urbaniak, PhD (assistant)

Research topics of the team members are focused on the biochemical and molecular characteristics of the saprobiotic and plant-pathogenic mycotoxin-producing fungi (mainly from Fusarium genus), isolated yearly from agriculturally important crops, like wheat, maize, asparagus or garlic. Experiments are aimed at revealing the genetic basis of mycotoxin biosynthesis by strains of different species as well as molecular factors affecting the activity of the metabolic pathways.
Based on the DNA sequence analyses, we are able to reconstruct the phylogeny of individual species, also using genes involved in secondary metabolism. Moreover, the mechanisms of bioactive compounds biotransformation by entomopathogenic fungi are being studied to evaluate their availability for biotechnological applications. We are also investigating the roles of mycotoxins and lytic enzymes in the molecular communication between the pathogen and the host plant.
Research profile
  • Molecular identification and characterization of plant- and entomopathogenic fungi.
  • Fusarium toxigenic abilities analysis, quantification of mycotoxins produced in vitro and detection of the biosynthetic genes from the respective metabolic pathways.
  • Evaluation of the cell wall-degrading enzymes’ activities presented by the pathogenic  fungi and respective genes’ expression studies.
  • Kinetics of Fusarium mycotoxins biotransformation by strains of fungi in liquid cultures.
  • Identification and cloning of the genes encoding enzymes governing the metabolism of mycotoxins.
  • isolation and purification of fungal strains from environmental samples,
  • microscopic analysis and taxonomic characteristics,
  • extraction of genomic DNA and the total RNA, synthesis of cDNA,
  • PCR and RT-PCR amplification,
  • molecular analysis of RAPD, SCAR, AFLP, SSR and phylogenetic markers,
  • DNA fragment cloning and sequencing,
  • biochemical analyses of enzymes activities, quantification of mycotoxins produced in vitro and in planta using UPLC and HPLC-MS.
Current research activities
  • Mycotoxin-producing Fusarium species analysis of inter-and intraspecific variability inside the secondary metabolicgene clusters.
  • Trichoderma fungi capable of mycotoxin biotransformation and variability of their lytic enzyme activities.
  • Evolution of the beauvericin and enniatin biosynthetic gene cluster from Fusarium, Trichoderma and Beauveria fungi.
  • Plant metabolites and abiotic stress factors triggering Fusarium proliferatum stress response.


Selected papers

  • Gálvez L., Urbaniak M., Waśkiewicz A., Stępień Ł., Palmero D.(2017).Fusarium proliferatum - causal agent of garlic bulb rot in Spain: genetic variability and mycotoxin production. Food Microbiology 67: 41-48.
  • Kasprzycka A., Lalak-Kańczugowska J., Tys J. (2018). Flammulina velutipes treatment of non-sterile tall wheat grass for enhancing biodegradability and methane production. Bioresource Technology 263: 660-664
  • Urbaniak M., Waśkiewicz A., Koczyk G., Błaszczyk L., Stępień Ł. (2020). Divergence of beauvericin synthase gene among Fusarium and Trichoderma species. Journal of Fungi, 6: 288.
  • Manawasinghe I.S., Phillips A.J.L., Xu J., Balasuriya A., Hyde K.D., Stępień Ł., Harishchandra D.L., Karunarathna A., Yan J., Weerasinghe J., Mei L., Dong Z., Cheewangkoon R. (2021). Defining a species in plant pathology: beyond the species level. Fungal Diversity, DOI: 10.1007/s13225-021-00481-x.


Research projects
Project no: PRELUDIUM 2017/25/N/NZ9/02525
Tytuł projektu: Zmienność potencjału biosyntezy depsipeptydów pod wpływem czynników regulacyjnych wśród przedstawicieli fito- i entomopatogenów u Hypocreales
Principal investigator: M. Urbaniak
Duration: 21 February 2018 - 20 February 2020

Project no: OPUS 2017/25/B/NZ9/01210
Tytuł projektu: Role enzymów litycznych i mykotoksyn wytwarzanych przez grzyby Fusarium w procesie patogenezy, oraz metabolitów odpowiedzialnych za odpowiedź obronną roślin
Principal investigator: Ł. Stępień
Duration: 9 February 2018 - 8 February 2021