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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Panagiotis Sarris

Dr Panagiotis Sarris

Honorary Associate Professor in Plant Immunity and Microbiology



My group investigates how plants resist disease in resistant hosts and how resistance is overcome by pathogens in susceptible hosts. Using molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry, we study the molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions to address microbial pathogenicity and activation of innate immunity in plants.

To suppress host defence pathogens, of both plant and animals encode virulence components, known as “effector proteins”, which are translocated into host cells or are secreted to extracellular spaces. How these effectors work in the host tissues and their subcellular targets identification could help up to understand the molecular nature of the plant defence system.

Plants’ and animals’ defence relies on a sophisticated innate immunity system that includes cell-surface and intracellular protein receptors. Pathogens recognition by immune receptors, initiates a molecular signaling cascade leading to plant defence activation mechanisms. Plant intracellular immune receptors of the Nucleotide Binding-Leucine Rich Repeat family (NB-LRR or NLR) are encoded by Resistance (R) genes and have structural similarity with the mammalian intracellular NLR family (NOD-like receptor) receptors.

Fields of Interest:

  • Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Plant Immunobiology
  • Molecular biology and Biotechnology of Disease Resistance in Plants
  • Microbial Molecular Genomics/Proteomics
  • Microbial Comparative Genomics and Phylogeny


1994-1999: BSc in “Molecular Biology”, University of “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Faculty of Sciences, Department of Biology, Sofia, Bulgaria.

1999-2000: MSc in “Clinical Chemistry and Microbiology”, Department of Biology, University of “St. Kliment Ohridski”,  & Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Department of Molecular Biology and Department of Human Physiology.

2002-2004: MSc in “Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology”, Department of Biology, University of Crete, Greece.

2004-2009: PhD in “Molecular Plant-Microbe interactions” & “Molecular Microbiology”, Department of Biology, University of Crete, Greece.

2009-2011: Post-Doc research, Medical academy and Dept. of Biology, University of Crete, Greece.

2012-2015: Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia (The Sainsbury Laboratory), Norwich, UK.

2015-present: Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Biosciences, University of Exeter, UK.

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Research interests

We work on the following topics:

1. What are the mechanisms of intracellular NLR immune receptors’ activation? and how do these receptors function to activate the plant innate immunity?

2. What is the diversity of pathogen effector proteins, and how effector diversity is connected to the limited key host cell targets?

3. Can we genetic engineer durable disease resistance in plant?


Sarris lab welcomes highly motivated individuals who wish to address important biological questions of the molecular plant-microbe interactions field in a friendly and international environment. University of Exeter provides excellent experimental facilities and living environment.
If you are interested in joining us as a postdoc, MSc/PhD student or research assistant, please send an email to to further discuss project and funding opportunities.

Research projects

Current projects:

  • Boosting Plant Disease Resistance with Immune Receptors’ protein domains fusions.
  • New disease resistance from wild crop relatives through genomics.


On-going grants

Project title Funding Source Period Role of the PI
CLES Strategic Development Fund University of Exeter 12/2016 -
Principal researcher
COST action : EuroXanth (CA16107) COST EU 24/10/2016 -
UK Management Committee
Brassica genomics GATSBY Foundation 03/2017 -
Principal researcher

Former grants

Project title Funding Source Period Role of the PI
BB/M008193/1 BBSRC 2014-2017 Co-Investigator/
"PlantDef Mech"
Proposal No: 299621
FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IEF 2012-2014

Principal researcher

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Teaching BIO2095 “Plants and People”

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