T. Erik Mirkov, Ph.D.
Professor Plant Virology
Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
Texas AgriLIFE Research
Overall Research Interest:
Dr. Mirkov conducts research in the areas of plant virology and molecular biology to engineer new varieties of sugarcane, citrus and melons that are resistant to viruses and the insects that transmit plant viruses. His program emphasizes developing these new varieties through genetic transformation. By identifying and deploying novel, disease and insect resistance genes in these crops, this research program provides improved, high-value cultivars for Texas growers. Dr. Mirkov also is developing sugarcane as a biofactory platform to produce high-value proteins for industrial and pharmaceutical uses.
Introduction of Disease and Insect Resistance Traits:
This project is focused on the development of citrus and sugarcane varieties that are resistant to virus and bacterial diseases, and to attack from insect pests through the introduction of new genetic traits through genetic transformation. Transgenic varieties are evaluated in the field and can be used to introduce new traits into traditional breeding programs.
Molecular Basis for Plant Disease Resistance:
This project seeks understanding of the genetic components of certain plant diseases and the mechanisms of resistance exhibited by some species. Citrus tristeza virus is a serious disease of citrus trees worldwide. Map-based cloning and characterization of the CTV-resistance gene from Poncirus is providing new routes to creating disease resistant commercial varieties. Other studies target the molecular basis of pathogen derived virus resistance and the molecular basis for plant-viral interactions and gene silencing.
Using molecular biology and genetic transformation techniques, sugarcane, one of the most photosynthetically efficient crop plants, is being modified to produce high value products such as therapeutic agents.