Quan Zeng

Image of Quan Zeng

Department of Plant Pathology and Ecology
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
123 Huntington Street
P.O. Box 1106
New Haven, CT 06504
Voice: (203) 974-8613  Fax:  (203) 974-8502
Lab website: https://quanzeng.wixsite.com/caes

Dr. Zeng has expertise in bacterial diseases of plants, plant-microbe interactions and molecular genetics.  He studied fire blight, a disease of apple and pears, soft rot, a potato and vegetable disease, as well as etiolation and decline, a turfgrass disease, from aspects of disease mechanisms, management, and detection.

B.S. Nanjing Agricultural University (2006); Biological Engineering
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2011); Biological Sciences
Postdoctoral associate Michigan State University (2011-2014); Plant Pathology

Station Career:
Assistant Agricultural Scientist II, 2014-2019
Associate Agricultural Scientist, 2019-present

Research Interests:
Plant diseases caused by bacteria result in significant economical loss to the U.S. agriculture annually. Our research aims to provide support to mitigate bacterial plant diseases and to minimize the damage to the plant agriculture. To do so, we first utilize molecular, genetic, and genomic tools to provide better understanding of how bacterial plant pathogens cause infection on host plants, and how the bacterial pathogens adapt to new hosts or spread to new geographical regions. In addition to providing answers to these basic research questions, we also aim to use applied research to address the immediate needs of the farmers, by providing information of antibiotic resistance in the pathogen population, developing more effective biological controls, and by exploring other novel management materials such as antisense antimicrobials and nanoparticles. 

Specific research areas include:
1. Understand how bacterial plant pathogens respond to host signals and modulate virulence expression during the host-microbe interactions. 
2. Characterize apple flower microbiome, and use the information to guide the identification of effective biological controls for fire blight in Eastern U.S.
3. Use genomics and comparative genomics tools to study the pathogen distribution and evolution of virulence factors in plant pathogenic bacteria
4. Develop antisense antimicrobials and nanoparticles as novel bactericides against bacterial plant pathogens and use them to control bacterial plant diseases.

Selected publications


Peer Reviewed Journals (Corresponding author underlined, * indicates shared lead authorship)

Cui, Z., Huntley, R., Schultes, N. and Steven, B. and Zeng, Q., (2020) Manipulation of apple stigma microbiome and its impact to the occurrence of fire blight disease. Phytobiomes Journal https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/PBIOMES-04-20-0035-R


Zeng, Q., Puławska, J., and Schachterle, J. (2020) Early events in fire blight infection and pathogenesis of Erwinia amylovoraJournal of Plant Pathology https://doi.org/10.1007/s42161-020-00675-3


Cui, Z., Huntley, R., Zeng, Q., and Steven, B. (2020) Temporal and spatial dynamics in the apple flower microbiome in the presence of the phytopathogen Erwinia amylovoraISME Journal.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-020-00784-y


Li, K., Wu, G., Liao, Y., Zeng, Q., Wang, H., and Liu, F. (2020) RpoN1 and RpoN2 play different regulatory roles in virulence traits, flagellar biosynthesis, and basal metabolism in Xanthomonas campestris.Mol. Plant Path. 21:907-922


Yuan, X., Zeng, Q., Xu, J., Severin, G.B., Zhou, X., Waters, C.M., Sundin, G.W., Ibekwe, A.M., Liu, F., and Yang, C.H. (2019) Tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle enzymes and intermediates modulate intracellular cyclic di-GMP levels and the production of plant-cell-wall degrading enzymes in soft rot pathogen Dickeya dadantiiMol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 33:296-307

Cui, Z., Yang, C.H., Kharadi, R.R.,Yuan, X.,Sundin, G.W.,Triplett, L. R., Wang, J., and Zeng, Q.(2019) Cell-length heterogeneity: a population-level solution to growth/virulence trade-offs in the plant pathogen Dickeya dadantii.PLoS Pathogens 15(8): e1007703. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007703

Zeng, Q., Cooley, D., and Schultes, N. (2019) Use of biological controls and sterilants as alternatives to streptomycin against fire blight blossom infections in apples.  Fruit Notes84:1-7

Shidore, T., Zeng, Q., and Triplett, L.R. (2019) Survey of toxin–antitoxin systems in Erwinia amylovora reveals insights into diversity and functional specificity.Toxins11:206 

Yuan, X., Zeng, Q.Khokhani, D., Severin, G., Waters, C., Xu, J., Zhou, X., Sundin, G.W., Liu, F. Q., and Yang, C.H. (2019) A Feed-forward signaling circuit controls bacterial virulence through linking cyclic di-GMP and two mechanistically distinct sRNAs; ArcZ and RsmB.  Environ. Microbe.https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14603
Schachterle, J., Zeng, Q., and Sundin, G.W. (2019) Three Hfq-dependent small RNAs regulate flagellar motility in the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovoraMol. Microbiol.https://doi.org/10.1111/mmi.14232


Cui, Z., Yuan, X., Yang, C.H., Huntley, R.B., Sun, W., Wang, J., Sundin, G.W., and Zeng, Q. (2018) Development of a method to monitor gene expression in single bacterial cells during the interaction with plants and use to study the expression of the type III secretion system in single cells of Dickeya dadantii in potato. Front. Microb. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.01429

Steven, B., Huntley, R. B., and Zeng, Q. (2018) The influence of flower anatomy and apple cultivar on the apple flower phytobiome. Phytobiomes Journal. https://doi.org/10.1094/PBIOMES-03-18-0015-R

Giordano, P.R., Wang, J., Vargas, J.M., Jacobs, J. Chilvers, M.I., and Zeng, Q. (2018) Using a genome-based PCR primer prediction pipeline to develop molecular diagnostics for the turfgrass pathogen Acidovorax avenae. Plant Disease. https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-01-18-0165-RE

Yuan, X., Tian, F., He, C., Severin, G.B., Waters, C.M., Zeng, Q., Liu, F., Yang, C.-H. (2018) The diguanylate cyclase GcpA inhibits the production of pectate lyases via the H-NS protein and RsmB regulatory RNA in Dickeya dadantii. Mol. Plant Path. DOI : 10.1111/mpp.12665

Zeng, Q., Cui, Z., Wang, J., Childs, K. L., Sundin, G. W., Cooley, D. R., Yang, C.-H., Garofalo, E., Eaton, A., HuntleyR. B., Yuan, X., and Schultes N. P. (2018) Comparative genomics of Spiraeoideae-infecting Erwinia amylovora strains provides novel insight to genetic diversity and identified the genetic basis of a low virulence strain. Mol. Plant Path. (Cover paper) DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12647

Zeng, Q., Wang, J., Bertels, F., Giordano, P.R., Chilvers, M., Huntley, R.B., Sundin, G.W., Vargas, J. M., Yang, C.-H. (2017) Recombination of virulence genes in divergent Acidovorax avenae strains that infect a common host. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 30:813-828

Patel, R. R., Sundin, G. W., Yang, C.-H., Wang, J., Huntley, R. B., Yuan, X., and Zeng, Q. (2017) Antisense peptide nucleic acid (PNA)-cell penetrating peptide (CPP) causes bactericidal effect in the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora. Front. Microbiol. 8:687. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.00687

Slack, S., Zeng, Q., Outwater, C., and Sundin, G. W. (2017) Microbiological examination of Erwinia amylovora exopolysaccharide ooze. Phytopathology. 107: 403-411
Sundin, G.W., Castiblanco, L., Yuan, X., Zeng, Q., and Yang, C.-H.  (2016) Bacterial disease management: Challenges, experience, innovation, and future prospects. Mol. Plant Pathol. 17: 1506-1518.
McNally, R., Zeng, Q., and Sundin, G.W. (2016) HrcU and HrpP are pathogenicity factors in the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora required for the type III secretion of DspA/E. BMC Microbiol. 16:88
Giordano, P., Zeng, Q., Dykema, N. M., Detweiler, A.R., and Vargas, J. M.  (2015) First report of Xanthomonas translucens causing wilt disease on perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) in the United States. Plant Disease. 99:1270

Acimovic, S., Zeng, Q., McGhee, G. C., Sundin, G. W., and Wise, J. C.  (2015) Control of fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) on apple trees with trunk-injected plant resistance inducers and antibiotics and assessment of induction of pathogenesis-related protein genes. Front. Plant Sci. 6:16
Zeng, Q., and Sundin, G. W. (2014) Genome-wide identification of Hfq-regulated small RNAs in the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora discovered small RNAs with virulence regulatory function. BMC Genomics 15:414?
Wu, X., Zeng, Q., Koestler, B. J., Waters, C. M., Sundin, G. W., Hutchins, W., and Yang, C.-H.  (2014) Deciphering the components that coordinately regulate virulence factors of the soft rot pathogen Dickeya dadantii. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 27:1119-1131
Khokhani, D., Zhang, C., Li, Y., Wang, Q., Zeng, Q., Yamazaki, A., Hutchins, W., Zhou, S., Chen, X., and C-H. Yang (2013) Discovery of plant phenolic compounds that act as type three secretion system inhibitors or inducers of fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovoraAppl. Environ. Microbiol.

Zeng, Q.,
McNally, R. R., Sundin, G. W. (2013) Global small RNA chaperone Hfq and regulatory small RNAs are important virulence regulators in Erwinia amylovora. J. Bacteriol. 195:1706-1717  

Zou, L.*, Zeng, Q.*, Lin, H., Gyaneshwar, G., Chen, G., and Yang, C.-H. (2012)  SlyA regulates T3SS genes in parallel with the T3SS master regulator HrpL in Dickeya dadantii 3937. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:2888-2895.

Zeng, Q.,
Laiosa, M. D., Steeber, D. A., Biddle, E. M., Peng, Q., and Yang, C.-H. (2012) Cell individuality: the bistable gene expression of T3SS in Dickeya dadantii 3937. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 25:37-47.

Yamazaki, A., Li, J., Zeng, Q., Khokhani, D., Hutchins, W. C., Yost, A. C., Biddle, E., Toone, E. J., Chen, X., and Yang, C.-H. (2011) Derivatives of plant phenolic compound affect the type III secretion system of Pseudomonas aeruginosa via a GacS/GacA two component signal transduction system. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56:36-43.

Zeng, Q.,
Ibekwe, A. M., Biddle, E., and Yang, C.-H. (2010) Regulatory mechanisms of exoribonuclease PNPase and regulatory small RNA on T3SS of Dickeya dadantii. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 23: 1345 – 1355.

Yi, X., Yamazaki, A., Biddle, E., Zeng, Q., and Yang, C.-H. (2010) Genetic analysis of two phosphodiesterases reveals cyclic diguanylate regulation of virulence factors in Dickeya dadantii. Mol. Microbiol. 77:787-800.

Li, Y., Yamazaki, A., Zou, L., Biddle, E., Zeng, Q., Wang, Y., Lin, H., Wang, Q., and Yang, C.-H. (2010) ClpXP protease regulates the Type III Secretion System of Dickeya dadantii 3937 and is essential for the bacterial virulence. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 23:871-878.

Yang, S., Peng, Q., San Francisco, M., Wang, Y., Zeng, Q., and Yang, C.-H. (2008) Type III secretion system genes of Dickeya dadantii 3937 are induced by plant phenolic acids. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2973.

      Book Chapters

Zeng, Q. and Yang, C.-H. (2015) Virulence Mechanisms of Phytopathogenic bacteria. In Post transcriptional and post translational regulation of virulence in phytopathogenic bacteria.  Edited by Nian Wang, Jeffery Jones, et al. American Phytopathological Society Press, St. Paul. MN
Zeng, Q., and Sundin, G.W. (2013) Identification and characterization of Hfq and Hfq-regulated small RNAs in Erwinia amylovora. XIII International Workshop on Fire Blight-Acta Horticulturae

Webcast videos

Zeng, Q.  (2017) Fire blight and streptomycin resistance. Plant Management Network, APS Crop Protection and Management Collection. https://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/edcenter/seminars/outreach/Apple/FireBlight/
      Non-peer reviewed publications
Zeng, Q., Schultes, N., and Cooley, D.R. (2017) Managing Fire Blight Under Humid Climate Conditions in Eastern United States. Proceedings for the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference.
Zeng, Q. (2015) Winter and Early-Season Fire Blight Management. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Fact Sheet. https://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/fact_sheets/plant_pathology_
Zeng, Q. (2015) Fire Blight Management at Bloom: Understanding Management from Disease Biology. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Fact Sheet. https://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/fact_sheets/plant_pathology_