Maeli Melotto

Maeli Melotto

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Plant Sciences


Melotto, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, specializes in plant-pathogen interactions. Melotto completed her Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics at Michigan State University before joining the UC Davis faculty in 2014 from the University of Texas.

Research interests: 

Plant disease, food safety, molecular biology of plant-microbe interactions, phyllosphere microbiology (aboveground portions of plants as a habitat for microorganisms), model and crop plant pathosystems, plant defenses against human and plant pathogens, stomatal immunity, bacterial pathogenesis on plants, produce contamination with human pathogens.

Brief overview:

Food production and food safety are constantly threatened by pathogenic microbes (such as bacteria and viruses) that can decrease crop yield and contaminate the edible parts of the plant. Our research is focused on understanding the close interaction between plants and pathogens at the molecular level.

We aim to determine the physiological changes that happen in both the plant and the pathogen when they come into contact. Specifically, we want to know how the plant immune system works to fight against pathogen infection and how pathogens employ virulence strategies to overcome plant defenses. 

This line of research is critical for the development of environmentally sound methods to minimize the impact of diseases and economic losses in agriculture worldwide, and to reduce food contamination with human pathogens in crops such as leafy vegetables.

Current projects:

  • Molecular mechanisms of stomatal immunity 
  • Human pathogen internalization and survival into leafy vegetables
  • Genetic components of crop plant resistance against fungal and bacterial pathogens
  • Transition from avirulent to virulent life styles of bacterial pathogens