I joined the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department in January 2004. I came to UTIA from the Iowa State University (ISU) where I spent 7 years (1997-2004) studying interactions between soybean mosaic virus and soybean at the Department of Plant Pathology. Prior to moving to ISU, I worked on various plant viruses in a number of research and academic institutions. I worked as a research scholar at the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky during 1996-1997 where I studied molecular biological aspects of two cucumoviruses infecting annual crops. In 2001, I worked as a postdoctoral scientist at Molecular Plant Virology and Plant Transformation Section of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma where I studied molecular biological aspect of a potyvirus infecting peanut. From 1991-1994, I was a research assistant scientist and subsequently a research associate scientist at Department of Plant Virology, Plant Pests and Diseases Research Institute, Tehran, Iran. In this period, I worked on applied aspects of a geminivirus infecting tomato and a cucumovirus affecting alfalfa. During 1989-1991 I was a postdoctoral research associate at Department of Plant Pathology, Adelaide University, Australia, where I studied interactions between alfalfa mosaic virus and lucerne.
Plant virus-host interactions
Plants have evolved mechanisms, such as resistance genes, to recognize, directly or indirectly, the invading viruses, activate host defense system, and suppress the invaders at the initial site of infection. On the other hand, viruses have evolved strategies to evade host defense recognition systems mediated by the resistance genes to establish infection and to survive. The main objective is to understand the underlying mechanism(s) of this interaction. We are using a well-defined experimental system to understand how soybean mosaic virus (SMV) that is one of the most widespread soybean viruses in the world overcomes the soybean defense system mediated by the Rsv1 or Rsv4 resistance genes.
Assessment of grapevine viruses in Tennessee vineyards
Grape production is a significant portion of Tennessee’s fruit industry. Viruses are considered as the major threat to grapevine worldwide mainly due to lack of curative or therapeutic treatments for infected plants. Viruses affect the quantity of grape production, negatively impact fruit quality, and shorten the productive life of vines. Despite the economic significance of grapevine to the state of Tennessee and indication of potential increase in acreage, knowledge about grape viruses in Tennessee is non-existent. The main objective of this research is to identify what viruses are associated with and impacting vineyards throughout Tennessee.
Viruses of soybean cyst nematode (SCN)
We have aimed at taking advantage of the contemporary sciences of Virology and Genomics to identify viruses affecting SCN. Viruses identified will be subsequently assayed for pathogenic impact on SCN.
My teaching philosophy is centered on self-instruction and self-motivation. It is my belief that a student equipped in the fundamental knowledge pertinent to a particular field of science can pick up the future advancements made in that field and make the necessary progress, if one has a strong desire to learn. To encourage self-reliance on learning, no specific textbook is assigned. Instead, students are provided with a list of the latest available reference textbooks as well as a comprehensive list of the periodical journals pertinent to Plant Virology.
EPP 521 – Plant Virology (course syllabus on Canvas)
EPP 521 is designed to provide students with an appreciation of Plant Virology as a science, the diversity of plant viruses, their mechanism(s) of replication and spread, impact on agriculture, management of plant viral diseases, and utilization of plant viruses as research tools in other branches of Plant Sciences. It is expected that by taking this course students gain some understandings in regards to fundamental aspects of plant viruses, learn about experimental approaches used to study plant viruses, develop the ability to converse with others about classical and contemporary aspects of Plant Virology, and become acquainted with the virological literature. Plant Virology, similar to other branches of Virology, is a highly dynamic field. Newly developed experimental tools and scientific concepts influence the field at a rapid pace, resulting in the discovery of new viruses as well as elucidating previously unknown features of viruses such as genome organization or gene expression. These developments, in turn, necessitate timely adjustments to the course.
B.S., Plant Protection, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran
Ph.D., Plant Virology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia
90% Research, 10% Teaching
Graduate program concentrations
Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Molecular Interactions
Areas of expertise
Plant virology, nematode virology
Experimental evolution, virus variability, host resistance, virus characterization, diagnostics
Research questions in our laboratory
Current lab members
1. Hajimorad, M.R., Domier, L.L. Tolin, S.A., Whitham, S.A., Saghai Maroof, M.A. 2017. Soybean mosaic virus: A successful potyvirus with a wide distribution but restricted natural host range. Molecular Plant Pathology (Accepted Article; doi:10.1111/mpp.12644).
2.Wang, Y., Hajimorad, M.R. 2016. Gain of virulence by Soybean mosaic virus on Rsv4-genotype soybeans is associated with a relative fitness loss in a susceptible host. Molecular Plant Pathology 17, 1154-1159 (doi: 10.1111/mpp.12354).
3 Wang, Y., Khatabi, B., Hajimorad, M.R. 2015. Amino acid substitution in P3 of Soybean mosaic virus to convert avirulence to virulence on Rsv4-genotype soybean is influenced by the genetic composition of P3. Molecular Plant Pathology 16, 301-307 (doi: 10.1111/mpp.12175).
4. Wen, R.-H., Khatabi, B., Ashfield, T., Saghai Maroof, M.A., Hajimorad, M.R. 2013. The HC-Pro and P3 cistrons of an avirulent Soybean mosaic virus are recognized by different resistance genes at the complex Rsv1 locus. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 26, 203-215.
5.Khatabi, B., Wen, R.-H., Hajimorad, M.R. 2013. Fitness penalty in susceptible host is associated with virulence of Soybean mosaic virus on Rsv1-genotype soybean: a consequence of perturbation of HC-Pro and not P3. Molecular Plant Pathology 14, 885-897.
6.Khatabi, B., Fajolu, O.L., Wen, R.-H., Hajimorad, M.R. 2012. Evaluation of North American isolates of Soybean mosaic virus for gain of virulence on Rsv-genotype soybeans with special emphasis on resistance-breaking determinants on Rsv4. Molecular Plant Pathology 13, 1077-1088.
7.Hajimorad, M.R., Wen, R.-H., Eggenberger, A.L., Hill, J.H., Saghai Maroof, S.A. 2011. Experimental adaptation of an RNA virus mimics natural evolution. Journal of Virology 85, 2557-2564.
8. Wen, R.-H., Saghai Maroof, M.A., Hajimorad, M. R. 2011. Amino acid changes in P3, and not the overlapping pipo-encoded protein, determine virulence of Soybean mosaic virus on functionally immune Rsv1-genotype soybean. Molecular Plant Pathology 12, 799-807.
9. Wen, R.-H., Hajimorad, M.R. 2010. Mutational analysis of the putative pipo of soybean mosaic virus suggests disruption of PIPO protein impedes movement. Virology 400, 1-7.
For complete list of publications please visit my