Quan Zeng

Department of Plant Pathology and Ecology
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
123 Huntington Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Voice: (203) 974-8613  Fax: (203) 974-8502
Laboratory 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.



Postdoctoral Associate, Michigan State University; Plant Pathology: 2011-2014

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Biological Sciences: 2011

B.S., Nanjing Agricultural University; Biological Engineering: 2006

Station Career:

Agricultural Scientist: 2023-present

Associate Agricultural Scientist: 2019-2023

Assistant Agricultural Scientist II: 2014-2019

Research Interests:
Plants secrete various nutrient rich exudates such as root exudates, guttation fluid, and nectar, that support the growth of various microbes. These microbes, including bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, and virus, together constitute the plant microbiome. Plant microbiome confers important functions such as growth promotion, stress tolerance, and disease resistance. In addition to the beneficial members, there are also pathogenic members within the microbiome that can cause disease infections. In our lab, we are interested to understand the interactions between plant microbiome with plant host, and with the pathogen, and how such interactions affect disease infections.

We are investigating these questions in the context of fire blight disease and flower microbiome. Fire blight is a devastating disease of apple and pear, caused by a bacterial pathogen Erwinia amylovora. We aim to characterize the development, dynamics, communication, and functions of the microbiome on apple flowers and understand how the microbiome, through inducing host immunity and antagonizing the pathogen, suppress disease infection. We also perform research to understand bacterial interspecies communication within soybean microbiome. 

Our applied research focuses on developing an integrated, organically approved disease management program for fire blight under humid climate conditions in Northeastern United States. Our lab performs field testing of various organic materials and biological controls, and different combinations, to achieve the highest disease suppressing efficacy with the minimal phytotoxicity to fruits.



Synergistic Activities:

Dr. Zeng is currently serving as the Senior Editor for Phytopathology, Editor for Microbiology Spectrum, as panelist for 6 USDA grant panels including USDA-AFRI-A1402, A1112, A1121 and SCRI/CDRE. He contributed to the APS annual meetings by organizing and co-organizing several workshops (2018, 2019, 2022), special sessions (2020, 2023), and a field trip (2018). He serves tree fruit growers in the Northeastern U.S., through the Northeastern Tree Fruit Working Group and extension talks at grower meetings and webinars.



Selected Publications

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

  • Rezzonico, F., Emeriewen, O. F., Zeng, Q., Peil, A., Smits, T. H. M., and Sundin, G. W. (2024). Burning questions for fire blight research: I. Genomics and evolution of Erwinia amylovora and analyses of host-pathogen interactions. Journal of Plant Pathology. DOI: 10.1007/s42161-023-01581-0
  • Zeng, Q., Slack, S., and Hassani, A. (2024). Pathogen spotlight on Erwinia amylovora - Recent advances in genomics, resistance breeding, and disease management. Phytopathology. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-11-23-0439-SA
  • Grünwald, N. J., Altendorf, K., Bock, C., Chang, J. H., De Souza, A. A., Del Ponte, E., Du Toit, L., Dorrance, A., Dung, J., Gent, D., Goss, E., Lowe-Power, T., Madden, L., Martin, F., McDowell, J., Moyer, M., Naegele, R. P., Potnis, N., Quesada-Ocampo, L. M., Sundin, G., Thiessen, L., Vinatzer, B. A., and Zeng, Q. (2024). Ensuring reproducibility in plant pathology. Phytopathology. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-12-23-0483-IA
  • Hassani, M. A., Cui, Z., LaReau, J., Hutley, .R., Steven, B., and Zeng, Q. (2024). Co-culturing with members of flower microbiome caused transcriptional shifts of the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora and influenced disease. Mbio. DOI: 10.1128/mbio.00213-24
  • Gdanetz, K., Dobbins, M. R., Villani, S. M., Outwater, C. A., Slack, S. M., Nesbitt, D., Svircev, A. M., Lauwers, E. M., Zeng, Q., Cox, K. D., and Sundin, G. W. (2023). Multisite field evaluation of bacteriophages for fire blight management: incorporation of 2 UVR protectants, and impact on the apple flower microbiome. Phytopathology. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-04-23-0145-KC
  • Sundin, G., Peng, J., Brown, L., Zeng, Q., Förster, H., and Adaskaveg, J. E. (2023). A novel IncX plasmid mediates high-level oxytetracycline and streptomycin resistance in Erwinia amylovora from commercial pear orchards in California. Phytopathologyhttps://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/PHYTO-06-23-0190-SA
  • Sun, W., Gong, P., Zhao, Y., Ming, L., Zeng, Q. and Liu, F. (2023). Outbreak of Fire Blight in China. Phytopathology. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-05-23-0170-RVW
  • Yuan, X., Sundin, G. W., Zeng, Q., Johnson, K. B., Cox, K. D., Yu, M., Huang, J., and Yang, C. H. (2023). The Erwinia amylovora type III secretion system inhibitors reduce fire blight infection under field conditions. Phytopathology. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-04-23-0111-SA
  • Kunz, S., Zeng, Q., and Johnson, K. B. (2023). History, efficacy, orchard ecology, and mode of action of Aureobasidium pullulans, the microbial agent in Blossom Protect, for suppression of apple fire blight. Journal of Plant Pathology. DOI: 10.1007/s42161-023-01448-4
  • Ogonkov, A., Brosius, P. E., Zeng, Q., Sasso, S., and Nagel, R. (2023). Not all Acidovorax are created equal: Gibberellin biosynthesis in the turfgrass pathogen A. avenae subsp. avenae. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. DOI: 10.1094/MPMI-02-23-0017-R
  • Zeng, Q., Johnson, K. B., Mukhtar, S., Nason, S., Huntley, R., Millett, F., Yang, C. H., Hassani, M. A., Zuverza-Mena, N., and Sundin, G. (2023).. Aureobasidium pullulans from the fire blight biocontrol product, Blossom Protect, induces host resistance in apple flowers. Phytopathology. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-12-22-0452-R
  • Banerjee, B., Zeng, Q., Yu, M., Hsueh, B., Waters, C. M., and Yang, C. H. (2022). Quorum-sensing master regulator VfmE is a c-di-GMP effector that controls pectate lyase production in phytopathogen Dickeya dadantiiMicrobiology Spectrum, 10(2). DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.01805-21
  • Jiang, D., Zeng, Q., Banerjee, B., Lin, H., Srok, J., Yu, M., and Yang, C. H. (2022). The phytopathogen Dickeya dadantii 3937 cpxR locus gene participates in the regulation of virulence and global c-di-GMP network. Mol. Plant Path23, 1187-1199. DOI: 10.1111/mpp.13219
  • He, F., Yang, J., Zhao, Y., Laborda, P., Jia, Y., Safdar, A., Kange, A. M., Li, B., Zhou, L., Zeng, Q., Brown, S., Fu, Z. Q., and Liu, F. (2022). Identification and characterization of a stem canker and twig dieback disease of pear caused by Neofusicoccum parvum in Chinese mainland. Phytopathology Research, 4, 1-11. DOI: 10.1186/s42483-022-00111-7
  • Cui, Z., Huntley, R. B., Schultes, N. P., Kakar, K. U., Yang, C. H., and Zeng, Q. (2021). Expression of the type III secretion system genes in epiphytic Erwinia amylovora cells on apple stigmas benefits endophytic infection at the hypanthium. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 34, 1119-1127.
  • Cui, Z., Steven, B., and Zeng, Q. (2021). Complete genome sequences of CurtobacteriumPantoeaErwinia, and two Pseudomonas sp. strains, isolated from apple flower stigmas from Connecticut, USA. Microbiology Resource Announcements10(19), e00154-21.
  • Kharadi, R. R., Schachterle, J. K., Yuan, X., Castiblanco, L. F., Peng, J., Slack, S. M., Zeng, Q., and Sundin, G. W. (2021). Genetic dissection of the Erwinia amylovora disease cycle. Ann. Rev. of Phytopathol. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-phyto-020620-095540
  • Cui, Z., Huntley, R., Schultes, N., Steven, B. and Zeng, Q. (2020). Manipulation of apple stigma microbiome and its impact to the occurrence of fire blight disease. Phytobiomes Journal. DOI:10.1094/PBIOMES-04-20-0035-R
  • Zeng, Q., PuĊ‚awska, J., and Schachterle, J. (2020). Early events in fire blight infection and pathogenesis of Erwinia amylovoraJournal of Plant Pathology. DOI: 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. DOI: 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 campestrisMol. 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). DOI: 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 Notes,84, 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. Microb. DOI: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. DOI: 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. DOI: 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. 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. Phytopathology107, 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

Non-Peer Reviewed Publications