Yinong Yang, Ph.D.

  • Professor
Yinong Yang, Ph.D.
405C Life Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802
Work Phone: 814-867-0324
Fax: 814-863-7217

Areas of Expertise

  • Molecular plant-microbe interactions
  • Disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerance
  • Functional genomics and biotechnology
  • Genome editing and engineering
  • Rice, tomato, potato and mushroom precision breeding
  • Gene-edited and genetically modified organisms


  1. B.S., Biology, Zhejiang University (formerly Hangzhou University)
  2. M.S., Botany, University of South Florida
  3. Ph.D., Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Florida

Areas of Interest

Signal transduction of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance; Crop functional genomics and biotechnology; Genome editing and precision breeding

Program Interests

Rice is a model plant for monocots and one of the most important food crops for over half of the world's population. Rice blast (Magnaporthe oryzae) and sheath blight (Rhizoctonia solani) are the two most destructive diseases that negatively affect world-wide rice production. My research program aims to understand the molecular mechanism of pathogen virulence and host immunity during the rice-fungus interaction, and to translate basic knowledge into agricultural productivity via genome engineering and biotechnology. Our current research activities involve the following areas:

1. Pathogen virulence: Our recent studies focus on molecular, biochemical and functional characterization of the fungal effectors and their corresponding host protein targets. For example, the Nep1-like toxins and the zinc-finger effectors from Magnaporthe oryzae were found to interfere with host protein degradation or manipulate host chromatin configuration and gene expression, respectively. Using the yeast two-hybrid assay, in vitro protein binding, in vivo co-immunoprecipitation, bimolecular fluorescence complementation, and transgenic analyses, we have been elucidating the mode of action of the fungal effectors and characterizing the host target complexes for the underlying mechanism of pathogenesis and host susceptibility.

2. Host immunity: Our previous studies on rice defense signaling pathways reveal the distinctive roles of salicylic acid (SA), jasmonic acid (JA), ethylene (ET) and abscisic acid (ABA) in mediating rice resistance to different pathogens. The cross-talk between jasmonate and gibberellin pathways was shown to play an important role in rice growth and defense response. Using a combination of molecular, biochemical, physiological and functional genomic approaches, a number of stress-responsive rice mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) were found to modulate hormone signaling and mediate cross-talks between disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerance. To gain novel insights into the rice protein kinase signal transduction, we have been characterizing protein substrates of the stress-responsive MAPKs and calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) and determining the role of the CDPK-MAPK cross-talk in rice biotic and abiotic stress tolerance.

3. Translational biotechnology: Based on the mechanistic studies of pathogen virulence and host immunity, we have generated genetically modified rice crop with enhanced disease resistance and/or abiotic stress tolerance. Recently, the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 system has been adapted in my laboratory for plant genome editing and precision breeding of transgene-free, genetically improved crops such as rice, potato and mushroom. A series of plasmid vector systems (see and bioinformatic tools ( have been developed by our group to facilitate the application of CRISPR-Cas9 editing technology in plant genome engineering and crop improvement.

Recent Publications

Google Scholar (

Minkenberg, B., Wheatley, M., Yang, Y. 2017. CRISPR/Cas9-enabled multiplex genome editing and its application. In Donald P. Weeks and Bing Yang, editors: Gene Editing in Plants, Vol 149, PMBTS, UK: Academic Press, pp. 111-132.

Minkenberg, B., Xie, K., and Yang, Y. 2017. Discovery of rice essential genes by characterizing a CRISPR-edited mutation of closely related rice MAP kinase genes. Plant J. 89:636-648.

Dong, F., Xie, K., Chen, Y., Yang, Y.*, Mao, Y.* 2017. Polycistronic tRNA and CRISPR guide-RNA enables highly efficient multiplexed genome engineering in human cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 482:889-895.
(*co-corresponding author)

Lu, W., Deng, M., Guo, F., Wang, M., Zeng, Z, Han, N., Yang, Y., Zhu, M., Bian, H. 2016. Suppression of OsVPE3 enhances salt tolerance by attenuating vacuole rupture during programmed cell death and affects stomata development in rice. Rice 9: 65. 

Helliwell, E.E., Wang, Q., and Yang, Y. 2016. Ethylene biosynthesis and signaling is required for rice immune response and basal resistance against Magnaporthe oryzae infection. Mol. Plant-Microbe Interact. 29: 831-843.

Guo, F., Han, N., Xie, Y., Fang, K., Yang, Y., Zhu, M., Wang, J., and Bian, H. 2016. The miR393a/target module regulates seed germination and seedling establishment under submergence in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Plant Cell Environment 39: 2288-2302.

Xie, K., Minkenberg, B., and Yang, Y. 2015. Boosting CRISPR/Cas9 multiplex editing capability with the endogenous tRNA processing system. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112: 3570-3575.

Xie, K., Minkenberg, B., and Yang, Y. 2014. Targeted gene mutation in rice using a CRISPR-Cas9 system. Bio-Protocol 4: e1225.

Xie, K., Chen, J., Wang, Q., and Yang, Y. 2014. Direct phosphorylation and activation of a mitogen-activated protein kinase by a calcium-dependent protein kinase in rice. Plant Cell 26: 3077-3089.

Bai, Y., Han, N., Wu, J., Yang, Y., Wang, J., Zhu, M., and Bian, H. 2014. A transient gene expression system using barley protoplasts to evaluate microRNAs for post-transcriptional regulation of their target genes. Plant Cell Tiss Organ Cult 119: 211-219.

Wang, M., Yang, Y., and Bian, H. 2014. New genome targeting modification technology using a CRISPR-Cas system. Chinese J. Biochem Mol. Biol. 30: 426-433.

Xie, K., Zhang, J. and Yang, Y. 2014. Genome-wide prediction of highly specific guide RNA spacers for the CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing in model plants and major crops. Mol. Plant 7: 923-926.

Xie, K. and Yang, Y. 2013. RNA-guided genome editing in plants using a CRISPR-Cas system. Mol. Plant 6:1975-1983. (Cover story)

Yang, D.L., Yang, Y., and He, Z. 2013. Roles of plant hormones and their interplay in rice immunity. Mol. Plant 6:675-685.

Helliwell, E. H., Wang, Q., and Yang, Y. 2013. Transgenic rice with inducible ethylene production exhibits broad-spectrum disease resistance to the fungal pathogens Maganporthe oryzae and Rhizhoctonia solani. Plant Biotechnology J. 11: 33-42.

Yang, Y. (Editor) 2013. Methods in Molecular Biology: Rice Protocols. Humana Press Inc., Springer Science + Business Media.

Jia, Y., Liu, G., Park, D.-S., Correa-Vectoria, F., and Yang, Y. 2013. Inoculation and scoring methods for rice sheath blight disease. Methods in Molecular Biology: Rice Protocols 956: 257-268.

Helliwell, E. H. and Yang, Y. 2013. Molecular strategies to improve rice disease resistance. Methods in Molecular Biology: Rice Protocols 956: 285-309.

Liu, W., Xie, K., and Yang, Y. 2013. Genomic and bioinformatic resources for rice research. Methods in Molecular Biology: Rice Protocols 956: 327-332.

Bian, H., Xie Y., Guo, F., Han, N., Ma, S., Zeng, Z., Wang, J., Yang, Y., and Zhu, M. 2012. Distinctive expression patterns and roles of the miRNA393⁄TIR1 homolog module in regulating flag leaf inclination and primary and crown root growth in rice (Oryza sativa). New Phytologist 196: 149–161.

Yang, D.-L., Yao, J., Mei, C.-S., Tong, X.-H., Zeng, L.-J., Li, Q., Xiao, L-T., Sun, T.-P., Li, F., Deng, X.-W., Lee, C.-M., Thomashow, M., Yang, Y.*, He, Z.-H.*, and He, S. Y.* 2012. Plant hormone jasmonate prioritizes defense over growth by interfering with gibberellin signaling cascade. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109:7152-7153. (*co-corresponding author)


Yang, Y. and Xie, K. 2015. Methods and compositions for RNA-guided multiplex genome editing and other RNA technologies. (US Patent Application, PCT/US2015/055980, filed on Oct. 16, 2015 and published as WO2016061481 A1)

Yang, Y. and Xie, K. 2014. Gene targeting and genetic modification of plants via RNA-guided genome editing. PCT WO2014/194190A1 and US2015/0067922A1 (US Patent Application No. 14/291,605; PCT/US2014/040220)

Yang, Y. and Xiong, L. 2008. Mitogen-activated protein kinase and method of use to enhance biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in plants. (US. Patent 7,345,219)

Klessig, D.F. and Yang, Y. 1999. Novel genes associated with enhanced disease resistance in plants.  (U.S. Patent 5,939,601)

Research Interests

Biology and Ecology of Plant-Microbe and Plant-Environment Interactions
Host Resistance and Crop Biotechnology
Microbe-Host Interactions and Ecosystem Effects Faculty

Signal transduction during the rice-pathogen interaction with an emphasis on pathogen effectors, host targets and early signaling pathways

Plant Disease Management and Adaptive Research Faculty

Translational biotechnology for crop improvement


AGRO 518 Responses of Crop Plants to Environmental Stress (with Dr. Dawn Luthe)
PLBIO 513 Plant Communication and Growth Regulation (team taught)
PPATH 590 Colloquium
PPEM 497 Genome Editing
PPEM 543 Pathogen Variation and Host Resistance