Staff Profile

Dr Erik Rikkerink
Science Group Leader, Bioprotection Technologies

More information about our Bioprotection research

Dr Erik Rikkerink


BSc (Hons), Biochemistry, University of Otago, New Zealand
PhD, Genetics, University of Otago, New Zealand

Research Interests & Activities

Molecular genetics of host-pathogen interactions, including mapping, positional cloning of disease resistance genes, bioinformatics, analysing fungal and bacterial effectors and their plant host targets and linking this information to breeding strategies. Key areas of focus are understanding the virulence of a new outbreak of Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, responsible for worldwide devastation of kiwifruit orchards; developing strategies for breeding durable Psa resistance into kiwifruit cultivars; and understanding the role of intrinsic disorder in plant signalling pathways including plant disease signalling pathways and the DELLA-GID1-GA system. Disordered protein research has focused on the role of flexible protein regions in key signalling hubs such as the host defence protein RIN4 (targeted by multiple effectors) and the DELLA protein modified in natural dwarfing mutations. This has led to the development of new hypotheses to explain how hubs can behave as molecular super-switches and new strategies to target these proteins based on knowledge of their disorder-based mode of action.

International Collaboration

International Collaboration

Prof Donald Jacobs, Department of Physics and Optical Science, University of North Carolina at Charlotte     

Prof Joerg Gsponer and Dr Nawar Malhis, Michael Smith Laboratories-Centre for High-Throughput Biology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC, Canada                 

Prof. Vladimir N Uversky and Dr Bin Xue, College of Arts and Medicine, University of South Florida Tampa, FL, USA 

Prof. Paul B Rainey, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany

Dr Honour McCann, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen, Germany

Honours & Awards

1983 Otago University Post-graduate Scholar, Medical Research Council of New Zealand

2017 Senior member of The Plant & Food Psa Response team that was awarded the Prime Ministers Science prize

Professional Memberships

Member, New Zealand Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Member, MapNet

Key Publications

Sun X, Malhis N, Zhao B, Gsponer J, Rikkerink EHA. 2020. Computational disordered analysis in ethylene response factors uncovers binding motifs critical to their diverse functions. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21 (1): 74  

McAtee P, Brian L, Curran B, van der Linden O, Nieuwenhuizen N, Chen X, Henry-Kirk R, Stroud EA, Nardozza S, Jayaraman J, Rikkerink EH, Print C, Allan AC, Templeton MD. 2018. Re-programming of Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae gene expression during early stages of infection of kiwifruit. BMC Genomics 19: 822 

Rikkerink EHA. 2018 Pathogens and disease play havoc on the host epiproteome-the first line of response role for proteomic changes influenced by disorder. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 19 (3):772

Schropfer S, Bottcher C, Wohner T, Richter K, Norelli J, Rikkerink EHA, Hanke M-V, Flachowsky H 2018. A single effector protein, AvrRpt2EA from Erwinia amylovora, can cause fire blight disease symptoms and induces a salicylic acid dependent defense response. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 31 (11): 1179. 

Jayaraman J, Choi S, Prokchorchik M, Cho DS, Spiandore A, Rikkerink EH, Templeton MD, Segonzac C, Sohn KH 2017.  A bacterial acetyltransferase triggers immunity in Arabidopsis thaliana independent of hypersensitive response. Scientific Reports. 7(1): 3557 (CS 4.3)

McCann HC, Li L, Liu Y, Li D, Pan H, Zhong C, Rikkerink EHA, Templeton MD, Straub C, Colombi E, Rainey PB, Huang H. 2017. Origin and evolution of the kiwifruit canker pandemic. Genome Biology & Evolution 9(4): 932-944.

Brendolise C, Montefiori M, Dinis R, Peeters N, Storey RD,  Rikkerink EH. 2017. A novel hairpin library-based approach to identify NBS-LRR genes required for effector-triggered hypersensitive response in Nicotiana benthamiana.  Plant Methods. 13(1): 32 

Mesarich CH, Rees-George J, Gardner PP, Ghomi FA, Gerth ML, Andersen MT, Rikkerink EHA, Fineran PC, Templeton MD. 2017. Transposon insertion libraries for the characterization of mutants from the kiwifruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae. PLoS One. 12(3): e0172790 

Yao JL, Xu J, Cornille A, Tomes S, Karunairetnam S, Luo L, Bassett H, Whitworth C, Rees-George J, Ranatunga C, Snirc A, Rikkerink EHA et al. 2015. A microRNA allele that emerged prior to apple domestication may underlie fruit size evolution. The Plant Journal 82: 417–427

Sun X, Greenwood DR, Templeton MD, Libich DS, McGhie TK, Xue B, Yoon M, Cui, W, Kirk CA, Jones WT, Uversky VN, Rikkerink EHA 2014. The intrinsically disordered structural platform of the plant defence hub protein RIN4 provides insights into its mode of action in the host-pathogen interface and evolution of the NOI protein family. FEBS J. 281: 3955.

McCann,H.C. Rikkerink, EHA, Bertels, F, Fiers, M, Lu, A, Rees-George, J, Andersen, MT, Gleave, AP, Haubold, B, Wohlers, MW, Guttman, DS, Wang, PW, Straub, C, Vanneste, J, Rainey, PB &Templeton, MD (2013) Genomic Analysis of the Kiwifruit Pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae Provides Insight into the Origins of an Emergent Plant Disease. PLoS Pathogens 9:e1003503 

Sun, X, Rikkerink, EHA, Jones, WT, & Uversky VN (2013) Multifarious Roles of Intrinsic Disorder in Proteins Illustrate Its Broad Impact on Plant Biology. Plant Cell 25:38-55 

Sun, X, Xue, B, Jones, W T, Rikkerink, E, Dunker, A K and Uversky, V N (2011) A functionally required unfoldome from the plant kingdom: intrinsically disordered N-terminal domains of GRAS proteins are involved in molecular recognition during plant development. Plant Mol.Biol., 773: 205-223 

Sun X, Jones WT & Rikkerink EHA (2012). GRAS proteins: The versatile roles of intrinsically disordered proteins in plant signalling. Biochemical Journal. 442: 1-12 

Bus VGM, Rikkerink EHA, Caffier V, Durel CE & Plummer KM (2011). Revision of Nomenclature of the Differential Host-Pathogen Interactions of Venturia inaequalis and Malus. Annual Review of Phytopathology 49:391-413. 

Association mapping in Plants Oraguzie NC, Rikkerink EHA et al. (2007), Editors, Springer 

Newcomb RD, Crowhurst RN, Gleave AP, Rikkerink EHA et al. (2006). Analyses of Expressed Sequence Tags from Apple. Plant Physiology. 141:1-20 

Templeton, MD Rikkerink, EHA & Beever RE 1994. Small, cysteine-rich proteins and recognition in fungal-plant interactions. Molec. Plant-Microbe Interact. 7: 320-325.