My name is Holly Ren and I’m a senior at Enloe High School. Beyond doing research on plant parasites, I also am president of the Enloe Women in Science where we’ve collaborated with a local elementary school to encourage and support girls at young age who have a passion for science. Dancing is another great passion of mine. I’ve been a part of the Ruby Slippers Chinese Dance Club, a club that promotes the appreciation traditional Chinese dance and we perform at a variety of events. I also love teaching dance at my local Chinese school. In my free time, I tend I like to read, spend time with my friends and family, and of course watch a little Netflix. I’m interested in pursuing the premedical program in college and hope to have career in medicine one day. I’m also interested in study abroad programs and international service programs so that I can contribute to not only my local community but the global one as well.
One major challenge in the 21st century is increasing crop yield to feed the world’s growing population on the diminishing arable land. Plant parasitic nematodes, including the Root-Knot Nematode (RKN), cause nearly $100 billion US dollars in annual crop loss worldwide. These parasites are microscopic worms that feed on plant cells. Past attempts to control plant parasitic nematodes have yielded little success. This is because of no direct link between the gene tested and the virulence of the nematode strains. A recent study has shown that the RKN strains, VW9 and LM, trigger distinct plant host response. In particular, AGAMOUS gene expression is highly suppressed in VW9 compared to LM. AGAMOUS is a plant transcription factor that acts as a master regulator of its target genes. This study has demonstrated that VW9 strain is a highly virulent that causes significant damage to its host. Through sequence analysis and RT-qPCR validation, for the first time, this study has identified three conserved target genes of AGAMOUS. These genes play crucial roles in the parasite-host interactions because they are a part of pathways of pathogen defense, disease resistance, and energy metabolism. By combining these findings, this study has developed a method of prioritizing genes that could be the key for engineering novel and effective nematode control strategies.