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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Menu Institutions

SPS - Saclay Plant Sciences


3 questions to Marie Dufresne

Marie Dufresne is the head of the "Functional genomics of cereal-pathogen interactions" team at the Institute of Plant Sciences Paris-Saclay (IPS2). After completing her curriculum at the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan, she started a doctoral thesis at the University of Paris-Sud, which she defended in 1997. She then worked as a post-doc at the John Innes Center (Norwich). Following this post-doc, she became assistant professor at the University Paris-Sud in 2000, carrying out her research at the Institute of Plant Biology (IBP), which has since merged with other laboratories to create IPS2 in 2015. Her strong involvement in the organization of teaching programs, particularly in plant sciences, was rewarded in 2017, as Marie Dufresne acceded to the rank of professor at the University of Paris-Sud this year.

1) What are your current research themes? What might be the potential impact of your research on tomorrow's agriculture?

Our research focuses on Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), one of the major diseases of small-grain cereals, mainly caused by the ascomycete fungus Fusarium graminearum. This disease causes yield losses (between 15 and 25% depending of the year) but also public health issues as the fungal pathogen produces mycotoxins during plant infection that are harmful for humans and animals. In the team, we use two host plants: bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and the model cereal species Brachypodium distachyon which exhibits several advantages such as a small and sequenced diploid genome, a rapid life cycle and a small size.

The aim of our research is to better understand the plant defense mechanisms. In particular, we are interested in the relationship between mycotoxin detoxification and resistance towards FHB. Using B. distachyon, we have demonstrated that early and efficient detoxification of mycotoxins through glucosylation is an important lever of plant resistance. This work has been recently transferred to bread wheat using a translational biology approach.

Wheat is one of the major crops in France and Europe. Our research could help designing resistant wheat varieties based on their aptitude to detoxify mycotoxins more efficiently. This is a novel trait that could be included easily in wheat breeding programs.

Recently, we have also started a more applied project aiming at the development of a biocontrol solution against FHB. The Ecophyto2 context in France prescribes a reduced use of chemicals in agriculture. Our work can lead to the development of alternative/complementary solutions to protect wheat against FHB. This is a really exciting aspect of research to contribute to a better crop protection in agriculture.

2) What is the place of plant sciences in your teaching? How do you encourage students to choose careers in plants?

I mainly teach in plant sciences (around 70% of my lectures and practical courses) from the first year of the bachelor to the end of the master’s degree. I try to communicate my enthusiasm to the students and to present them the scope of what is possible in plant sciences.  Most of the time, students are poorly aware of research and applications in plant sciences, except maybe concerning botany. Using different examples, anecdotes, I describe the extensive research performed in this field. I also encourage them to perform internships as soon as possible in plant sciences laboratories, which is easy in our area (south of Ile-de-France) considering the numerous research teams working in plant sciences. Finally, for younger students, I take advantage of the localization of plant science teachings next to our research institute. I give them the possibility to visit our growth facilities and see all the plant species we work on here.

3) What does the context of the SPS LabEx bring you?

The SPS LabEx has greatly contributed to the two main aspects of my work in the last years, research and teaching, and I think it is important to develop both.

In my research, I have mentioned the recent involvement of the team in a project of biocontrol against FHB. This project has typically been enabled by SPS fundings, allowing the set-up of prematuration projects between an academic research team and an industrial partner during one year. This research project has been initiated and fruitful since it has allowed us to construct a maturation project with a society enabling technology transfer (SATT) in Paris-Saclay.

Concerning education, the SPS LabEx has been a real driving force in the last years. Several innovative pieces of equipment, company visits, attendance to scientific events have been supported by the SPS LabEx. Consequently, in particular for the master’s degree I co-supervise, this means great benefits for both teachers and students and a real enrichment of teaching units.