Mehdi Kabbage

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Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

Phone: 608-262-0506

583B Russell Labs
1630 Linden Dr
Madison, WI 53706

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Learn More:



  • Ph.D. Plant Pathology, Kansas State University
  • M.S. Plant Pathology, Kansas State University
  • B.S. Engineering, Ecole d‚ÄôIng√©nieurs de Purpan, Toulouse, France


My overall goal is to gain a better understanding of necrotrophic fungal pathogenesis that will lead to suitable control strategies. Plant associated fungi and oomycetes have adopted different lifestyles and strategies to achieve pathogenic success. Necrotrophic pathogens by definition require dead host cells for nutrient acquisition. The necrotrophic fungal pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum secrete oxalic acid, a key virulence factor that induces Programmed Cell Death (PCD) in the host. This pathogen has a wide host range that cover many broadleaf crops, including economically vital crops to the state of Wisconsin such as soybeans and snap beans.

The inhibition of PCD in plants has shown great promise in limiting necrotrophic fungal infections and conferring resistance to a range of abiotic and biotic insults. I am interested in identifying how animal Inhibitors of Apoptosis regulate cell death processes in plants. My lab focuses on the Inhibbitor of Apoptosis (IAP) family, IAPs serve as endogenous inhibitors of apoptosis by binding and inhibiting caspases. However, our knowledge of caspase function in plants is limited, and there is an ongoing debate whether plants possess ‚Äútrue‚ÄĚ caspases. Therefore, the question remains as to how IAPs can confer stress tolerance in plants.

Courses Taught

Pl Path/Botany 332 Fungi, 4 cr, Prof. Kabbage, offered Spring.
Course Description: Growth, development, variability and dispersal of saprophytic, parasitic, and symbiotic fungi, with a consideration of their ecological and economic significance.

Pl Path/Botany 333 Biology of the Fungi, 2 cr, Prof. Kabbage, offered Spring.
Course Description:  Growth, development, variability and dispersal of saprophytic, parasitic, and symbiotic fungi, with a consideration of their biological, ecological and economic significance.

Pl Path/Botany/Entom 505 Plant-Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects, 3 cr, Profs. Allen, Barak, Bent, Kabbage, Rakotondrafara, offered Spring.
Course description: In-depth exploration of the interactions between plants and microbes (as well as nematodes and insects), driven by the current research literature. Emphasis is on the molecular mechanisms that drive broader host/microbe/environment interactions. Many key themes of modern biology emerge from fundamental scientific investigations of plant-microbe interactions.


Marburger D, Willbur JF, Weber ME, Ané JM, Kabbage M, Conley SP, Smith DL. Characterizing the Effect of Foliar Lipo-chitooligosaccharide Application on Sudden Death Syndrome and Sclerotinia Stem Rot in Soybean. Plant Health Progress (in press)

Willbur, J., Fall, M., Bloomingdale, C.A., Byrne, A.M., Chapman, S., Isard, S.A., Magarey, R., McCaghey, M., Mueller, B., Russo, J., et al. (2017). Weather-based models for assessing the risk of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum apothecial presence in soybean (Glycine max) fields. Plant Disease.

McCaghey, M, Willbur, J, Ranjan, R, Grau, CR, Chapman, S, Diers, B, Groves, C, Kabbage, M and Smith, DL. (2017) Development and Evaluation of Glycine max Germplasm Lines with Quantitative Resistance to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Front. Plant Sci. 8, 1495. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.01495

Moellers, TC, Singh, A, Zhang, J, Brungardt, J, Kabbage, M, Mueller, DS, Grau, CR, Ranjan, A, Smith, DL, Chowda-Reddy, RV, Singh, AK. (2017) Main and epistatic loci studies in soybean for Sclerotinia sclerotiorum resistance reveal multiple modes of resistance in different environments. Scientific Reports. 7, 3554.

Yue, F., Gao, R., Piotrowski, JS., Kabbage, M., Lu, F., Ralph, J. (2017) Scaled-up production of poacic acid, a plant-derived antifungal agent. Industrial Crops and Products, 103, 240-243

Ranjan, A., Jayaraman, D., Grau, C., Hill, J. H., Whitham, S. A., Ané, J.-M., Smith, D. L. and Kabbage, M. (2017), The pathogenic development of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in soybean requires specific host NADPH oxidases. Molecular Plant Pathology. doi:10.1111/mpp.12555

Kabbage, M., Kessens, R., Bartholomay, L.C. and Williams, B. (2017) The Life and Death of a Plant Cell.¬†Annu. Rev. Plant Biol.¬†2017. 68:7.1‚Äď7.30

Willbur, J.F., Ding, S., Marks, M.E., Lucas, H., Grau, C.R., Groves, C.L., Kabbage, M., and Smith, D.L. (2016). Comprehensive Sclerotinia Stem Rot Screening of Soybean Germplasm Requires Multiple Isolates of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Plant Disease 101, 344-353.

Kabbage, M., Kessens, R., Dickman, MB. (2016) A plant Bcl-2-associated athanogene is proteolytically activated to confer fungal resistance.¬†Microbial Cell. 3(5): 224 ‚Äď 226

*Li, Y., *Kabbage, M., Liu, W., and Dickman, MB. (2016) Aspartyl Protease-Mediated Cleavage of BAG6 Is Necessary for Autophagy and Fungal Resistance in Plants. The Plant Cell. 28(1): 233-247

Piotrowski JS, Okada H, Lu F, Li S, Hinchman L, Ranjan A, Smith DL, Higbee AJ, Ulbrich A, Coon J, Deshpande R, Bukhman Y, McIlwain S, Ong I, Landick R, Boone C, Ralph J, Myers CL, Kabbage M, Ohya Y. (2015). The plant derived, antifungal agent poacic acid targets ő≤-1,3-glucan.¬†Proc Natl Acad Sci USA.¬†112(12):E1490-7

Kabbage, M., Yarden, O., Dickman, M.B. (2015) Pathogenic attributes of¬†Sclerotinia¬†sclerotiorum: Switching from a biotrophic to necrotrophic lifestyle.¬†Plant Science. 233:53‚Äď60

Oded, Y., Veluchamy, S, Dickman, MB, and Kabbage, M. (2014)¬†Sclerotinia sclerotiorum¬†catalase SCAT1 affects oxidative stress tolerance, regulates ergosterol levels and controls pathogenic development.¬†Physiol Mol Plant Pathol.¬†85:34‚Äď41

Kabbage, M, Williams, B, and Dickman, M. (2013) Cell Death Control: Interplay of Apoptosis and Autophagy in the Pathogenicity of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. PLoS Pathog 9(4): e1003287. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003287

O’Connell1, RJ, Thon MR, …, Kabbage M, et al. (2012) Life-style transitions in plant pathogenic Colletotrichum fungi deciphered by genome and transcriptome analyses. Nat Genet. 44(9):1060-5. doi: 10.1038/ng.2372.

Kabbage, M., Ek-Ramos, M., Dickman, M. (2011) A ő≤-glucuronidase (GUS) based cell death assay.¬†J Vis Exp.¬†2011 May 6;(51). pii: 2680. doi: 10.3791/2680.

Williams, B., Kabbage, M., Kim, H. J., and Dickman, M. B. (2011) Tipping the balance: Sclerotinia sclerotiorum secreted oxalic acid suppresses the oxidative burst by manipulating the host redox environment. PLoS Pathog 7(6): e1002107. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002107

Kim, H.J., Chen, C., Kabbage, M., Dickman M.B. (2011) Identification and Characterization of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum NADPH Oxidases. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 77(21) 7721-7729.

Wu S, Lu D, Kabbage M, Wei H-L, Swingle B, et al. (2011) Bacterial effector HopF2 suppresses Arabidopsis innate immunity at the plasma membrane. Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 24(5):585-93.

Gurung, S., Goodwin, S. B., Kabbage, M., Bockus, W. W., and Adhikari, T. B. (2011) Analysis of Mycosphaerella graminicola from California, Indiana, Kansas and North Dakota with Microsatellite Markers Suggests a Panmictic Population. Phytopathology. 2011 Jun 21; 21692645

Kabbage, M., Li, W., and Dickman, M.B. (2010) The E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of an insect anti-apoptotic gene (SfIAP) is required for plant stress tolerance. Physiol Mol Plant Pathol. 74(5-6): 351-362.

*Williams, B., *Kabbage, M., Britt, R., and Dickman, M. B. (2010) AtBAG7, an Arabidopsis Bcl-2-associated athanogene, resides in the endoplasmic reticulum and is involved in the unfolded protein response. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 107(13):6088-93. (* Co-first Authors)

*Wei, L., *Kabbage, M., Chen, S., and Dickman, M. B. (2010) Transgenic Expression of an Insect Inhibitor of Apoptosis gene, Sf-IAP, confers abiotic and biotic stress tolerance and delays tomato fruit ripening. Physiol Mol Plant Pathol. 74(5-6): 363-375. (*Cofirst author)

Kabbage, M., Leslie, J. F., Hulbert, S. H, and Bockus, W. W. (2009) Comparison of Natural Populations of Mycosphaerella graminicola from Single Fields in Kansas and California. Physiol Mol Plant Pathol. 74:55-59.

Kabbage, M. and Dickman, M. B. (2008) The BAG proteins: a ubiquitous family of chaperone regulators. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 65:1390-1402.

Kabbage, M., Leslie, J. F., Zeller, K. A., Hulbert, S. H., and Bockus, W. W. (2008) Genetic diversity of Mycosphaerella graminicola, the causal agent of Septoria tritici blotch, in Kansas winter wheat. Journal of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences. Volume 2. Issue 1.

Garrett, K. A., Kabbage, M. and Bockus, W. W. (2004) Managing for fine-scale differences in inoculum load to minimize wheat yield loss to take-all. Precision Agriculture 5, 291-301.

Kabbage, M. and Bockus, W. W. 2002. Effect of placement of inoculum of Gaeumannomyces graminis (Sacc.) var. tritici on severity of take-all. Plant Disease 86:298-303.