Professor Gail Preston

Research interests

Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions


Our research focuses on plant-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions, with a particular emphasis on bacterial diseases of plants and mushrooms.  We aim to understand how the microenvironment inside host organisms affects disease development, and how environmental factors such as soil mineral nutrients and pollutants can tip the balance between disease resistance and susceptibility. We also study how the metabolic and regulatory networks and biosynthetic capabilities of plant-associated microorganisms contribute to disease development, and how knowledge of host-microbe interactions can be exploited for biotechnological applications and disease control.

Our interdisciplinary research programme uses a wide variety of techniques ranging from microbiology, metabolomics, modelling and molecular genetics to imaging and informatics. We collaborate with researchers in the departments of Plant Sciences, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics and Zoology at Oxford, and with researchers across a wide range of organisations including UWE (Dr. Dawn Arnold), University of Reading (Dr. Robert Jackson), ISIS Neutron and Muon Source (Dr. Luke Clifton and Prof. Jeff Penfold), Kingston University (Dr. Ali Ryan and Dr. Edith Sim), University of Bath (Dr. Christian Yates) and in Europe and the USA (Dr. Anja Hörger, Prof. Alan Collmer and Prof. Joyce Loper) to investigate plant-pathogen interactions, virulence mechanisms and stress tolerance in pathogenic microorganisms, and to develop novel experimental techniques.

Gail Preston studied Natural Sciences at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, followed by a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology at Cornell University. She was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 2001. In 2009 she became a Programme Director at the University of Oxford's Doctoral Training Centre and she is currently the co-Director of the BBSRC-funded Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership and a fellow of Linacre College.

Contact details

+44 (0) 1865 275132 (Plants)
+44 (0) 1865 610661 (DTC)

Publications (while at this department)

Song Y, Kaster A-K, Vollmers J, Song Y, Davison PA, Frentrup M, Preston GM, Thompson IP, Murrell JC, Yin H, Hunter CN, Huang WE. 2016. Single-cell genomics based on Raman sorting reveals novel carotenoid-containing bacteria in the Red Sea. Microbial Biotechnology. DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.12420

Wang, Y., Song, Y., Tao, Y., Muhamadali, H., Goodacre, R., Zhou, N.-Y., Preston, G.M., Xu, J., Huang, W. (2016) Reverse and multiple stable isotope probing to study bacterial metabolism and interactions at the single cell level. Analytical Chemistry.  doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01602

Che Omar S., Bentley M.A., Morieri G., Preston G.M., Gurr S.J. (2016) Validation of reference genes for robust qRT-PCR gene expression analysis in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. PLoS ONE 11: e0160637.

Mehrabi, Z., McMillan, V.E., Clark, I.M., Canning G., Hammond-Kosack, K.E., Preston, G., Hirsch, P.R., Mauchline, T.H. (2016) Pseudomonas spp. diversity is negatively associated with suppression of the wheat take-all pathogen. Scientific Reports. 6, 29905

Neale H.C., Laister R., Payne J., Preston G., Jackson R.W., Arnold D.L. (2016). A low frequency persistent reservoir of a genomic island in a pathogen population ensures island survival and improves pathogen fitness in a susceptible host. Environmental Microbiology. Online Early. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13482

Fones H.N., McCurrach H., Mithani A., Smith J.A.C., Preston G.M. (2016) Local adaptation is associated with zinc tolerance in Pseudomonas endophytes of the metal-hyperaccumulator plant Noccaea caerulescensProceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 283: 2016.0648

O'Leary, B. M., Neale, H. C., Geilfus, C. -M., Jackson, R. W., Arnold, D. L., and Preston, G. M. (2016) Early changes in apoplast composition associated with defence and disease in interactions between Phaseolus vulgaris and the halo blight pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. phaseolicola. Plant, Cell and Environment. 39: 2172-84.

Qi; Q., Toll-Riera, M.; Heilbron, K.; Preston, G.; MacLean, R. (2016) The genomic basis of adaptation to the fitness cost of rifampicin resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Online Early DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2452 

Jiménez-Guerrero I., Pérez-Montaño F., Monreal J.A., Preston G.M., Fones H., Vioque B., Ollero F.J., Lopez-Baena F.J. (2015) The Sinorhizobium (Ensifer) fredii HH103 Type 3 secretion system suppresses early defense responses to effectively nodulate soybean. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. 28, 790-9

Jaskowska, E., Butler, C., Preston, G., Kelly, S. (2014). Phytomonas: trypanosomatids adapted to plant environments. PLoS Pathogens 11, e1004484

Henkels, M.D, Kidarsa, T.A, Shaffer, B.T, Goebel, N.C, Burlinson, P, Mavrodi, D.V, Bentley, M.A, Rangel, L.I, Davis, II E.W, Thomashow, L.S, Zabriskie, T.M, Preston, G.M, Loper, J.E. (2014) Pseudomonas protegens Pf-5 causes discoloration and pitting of mushroom caps due to the production of antifungal metabolites Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. 27 (7): pp 733-746.

O'Leary, B.M, Rico, A, McCraw, S, Fones, H.N, Preston, G.M. (2014) The infiltration-centrifugation technique for extraction of apoplastic fluid from plant leaves using Phaseolus vulgaris as an example Journal of Visualized Experiments. (94):. doi:10.3791/52113

O'Leary, B, Preston, G.M, Sweetlove, L.J. (2014) Increased β-cyanoalanine nitrilase activity improves cyanide tolerance and assimilation in arabidopsis Molecular Plant. 7 (1): pp 231-243doi:10.1093/mp/sst110

Qi, Q, Preston, G.M, Maclean, R.C. (2014) Linking system-wide impacts of RNA polymerase mutations to the fitness cost of rifampin resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa mBio. 5 (6):. doi:10.1128/mBio.01562-14

Ryan, A, Kaplan, E, Nebel, J.-C, Polycarpou, E, Crescente, V, Lowe, E, Preston, G.M, Sim, E. (2014) Identification of NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase activity in azoreductases from P. aeruginosa: Azoreductases and NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductases belong to the same FMN-dependent superfamily of enzymes PLoS ONE. 9 (6):.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098551

Scotti, J.S, Leung, I.K.H, Ge, W, Bentley, M.A, Paps, J, Kramer, H.B, Lee, J, Aik, W, Choi, H, Paulsen, S.M, Bowman, L.A.H, Loik, N.D, Horita, S, Ho, C.-H, Kershaw, N.J, Tang, C.M, Claridge, T.D.W, Preston, G.M, McDonough, M.A, Schofield, C.J. (2014) Human oxygen sensing may have origins in prokaryotic elongation factor Tu prolyl-hydroxylation Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111 (37): pp 13331-13336doi:10.1073/pnas.1409916111

Burlinson, P, Studholme, D, Cambray-Young, J, Heavens, D, Rathjen, J, Hodgkin, J, Preston, G.M. (2013) Pseudomonas fluorescens NZI7 repels grazing by C. elegans, a natural predator ISME Journal.. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.9

Fones, H.N, Preston, G.M. (2013) Trade-offs between metal hyperaccumulation and induced disease resistance in metal hyperaccumulator plants Plant Pathology. 62: pp 63-71doi:10.1111/ppa.12171

Fones, H.N, Eyles, C.J, Bennett, M.H, Smith, J.A.C, Preston, G.M. (2013) Uncoupling of reactive oxygen species accumulation and defence signalling in the metal hyperaccumulator plant Noccaea caerulescens New Phytologist. 199 (4): pp 916-924doi:10.1111/nph.12354

Fones, H, Preston, G.M. (2012) The impact of transition metals on bacterial plant disease FEMS Microbiology Reviews.. doi:10.1111/1574-6976.12004

Ge, W, Wolf, A, Feng, T, Ho, C.-h, Sekirnik, R, Zayer, A, Granatino, N, Cockman, M.E, Loenarz, C, Loik, N.D, Hardy, A.P, Claridge, T.D.W, Hamed, R.B, Chowdhury, R, Gong, L, Robinson, C.V, Trudgian, D.C, Jiang, M, Mackeen, M.M, Mccullagh, J.S, Gordiyenko, Y, Thalhammer, A, Yamamoto, A, Yang, M, Liu-Yi, P, Zhang, Z, Schmidt-Zachmann, M, Kessler, B.M, Ratcliffe, P.J, Preston, G.M, Coleman, M.L, Schofield, C.J. (2012) Oxygenase-catalyzed ribosome hydroxylation occurs in prokaryotes and humans Nature Chemical Biology.. doi:10.1038/nchembio.1093

Cusano, A.M, Burlinson, P, Deveau, A, Vion, P, Uroz, S, Preston, G.M, Frey-Klett, P. (2011) Pseudomonas fluorescens BBc6R8 type III secretion mutants no longer promote ectomycorrhizal symbiosis Environmental Microbiology Reports. 3 (2): pp 203-210doi:10.1111/j.1758-2229.2010.00209.x

Fones, H, Preston, G.M. (2011) Reactive oxygen and oxidative stress tolerance in plant pathogenic Pseudomonas FEMS Microbiology Letters..

Koskella, B, Thompson, J.N, Preston, G.M, Buckling, A. (2011) Local biotic environment shapes the spatial scale of bacteriophage adaptation to bacteria American Naturalist. 177 (4): pp 440-451doi:10.1086/658991

Mithani, A, Hein, J, Preston, G.M. (2011) Comparative analysis of metabolic networks provides insight into the evolution of plant pathogenic and nonpathogenic lifestyles in Pseudomonas Molecular Biology and Evolution. 28 (1): pp 483-499doi:10.1093/molbev/msq213

Rico, A, McCraw, S.L, Preston, G.M. (2011) The metabolic interface between Pseudomonas syringae and plant cells Current Opinion in Microbiology. 14 (1): pp 31-38doi:10.1016/j.mib.2010.12.008

Fones, H, Davis, C.A.R, Rico, A, Fang, F, Smith, J.A.C, Preston, G.M. (2010) Metal hyperaccumulation armors plants against disease PLoS Pathogens. 6 (9):. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001093

Mithani, A, Preston, GM, Hein, J. (2010) A Bayesian approach to the evolution of metabolic networks on a phylogeny PLoS Computational Biology 6(8): e1000868..

Park, D.H, Mirabella, R, Bronstein, P.A, Preston, G.M, Haring, M.A, Lim, C.K, Collmer, A, Schuurink, R.C. (2010) Mutations in γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transaminase genes in plants or Pseudomonas syringae reduce bacterial virulence Plant Journal. 64 (2): pp 318-330doi:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2010.04327.x

Preston, G.M, Arnold, D.L. (2010) How bacterial plant pathogens escape their fate in disease-resistant plants Microbiology Today. 37 (3): pp 164-169 

Preston, GM, Arnold, DL. (2010) Karma chameleons: How bacterial plant pathogens escape their fate in disease resistant plants Microbiology Today ( : Aug2010). pp 164-169 

Rico, A, Bennett, M.H, Forcat, S, Huang, W.E, Preston, G.M. (2010) Agroinfiltration reduces ABA levels and suppresses Pseudomonas syringae-elicited salicylic acid production in Nicotiana tabacum. PloS one. 5 (1):. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008977

Rico, A, Bennett, M.H, Forcat, S, Huang, W.E, Preston, G.M. (2010) Agroinfiltration reduces ABA Levels and suppresses Pseudomonas syringae-elicited salicylic acid production in Nicotiana tabacum PLoS ONE. 5 (1): pp 1-12doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008977

Howden, A.J.M, Rico, A, Mentlak, T, Miguet, L, Preston, G.M. (2009) Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae B728a hydrolyses indole-3-acetonitrile to the plant hormone indole-3-acetic acid Molecular Plant Pathology. 10 (6): pp 857-865doi:10.1111/j.1364-3703.2009.00595.x

Howden, AJ, Harrison, CJ, Preston, GM. (2009) A conserved mechanism for nitrile metabolism in bacteria and plants The Plant Journal. 57 (2): pp 243-253.

Howden, A.J.M., Preston, G.M. (2009) Nitrilase enzymes and their role in plant-microbe interactions Microbial Biotechnology. 2: pp 441-451doi:10.1111/j.1751-7915.2009.00111.x

Mithani, A, Preston, G.M, Hein, J. (2009) Rahnuma: Hypergraph-based tool for metabolic pathway prediction and network comparison Bioinformatics. 25 (14): pp 1831-1832doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btp269

Mithani, A, Preston, G.M, Hein, J. (2009) A stochastic model for the evolution of metabolic networks with neighbor dependence Bioinformatics. 25 (12): pp 1528-1535doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btp262

Silby, M.W, Cerdeno-Tarraga, A.M, Vernikos, G.S, Giddens, S.R, Jackson, R.W, Preston, G.M, Zhang, X.-X, Moon, C.D, Gehrig, S.M, Godfrey, S.A.C, Knight, C.G, Malone, J.G, Robinson, Z, Spiers, A.J, Harris, S, Challis, G.L, Yaxley, A.M, Harris, D, Seeger, K, Murphy, L, Rutter, S, Squares, R, Quail, M.A, Saunders, E, Mavromatis, K, Brettin, T.S, Bentley, S.D, Hothersall, J, Stephens, E, Thomas, C.M, Parkhill, J, Levy, S.B, Rainey, P.B, Thomson, N.R. (2009) Genomic and genetic analyses of diversity and plant interactions of Pseudomonas fluorescens Genome Biology. 10 (5):. doi:10.1186/gb-2009-10-5-r51

Huang, W.E, Singer, A.C, Spiers, A.J, Preston, G.M, Whiteley, A.S. (2008) Characterizing the regulation of the Pu promoter in Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 Environmental Microbiology. 10 (7): pp 1668-1680.

Leveau, J.H.J, Preston, G.M. (2008) Bacterial mycophagy: Definition and diagnosis of a unique bacterial-fungal interaction New Phytologist. 177 (4): pp 859-876.

Rico, A, Preston, G.M. (2008) Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 uses constitutive and apoplast-induced nutrient assimilation pathways to catabolize nutrients that are abundant in the tomato apoplast Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. 21 (2): pp 269-282doi:10.1094/MPMI-21-2-0269.

Rico, A, Jones, R, Preston, GM. (2008) Adaptation to the plant apoplast by plant pathogenic bacteria Plant Pathogenic Bacteria: Genomics and Molecular Biology. Eds. R. W. Jackson. Horizon Scientific Press, Norwich, UK. ISBN: 9781904455370.

Jones, J, Studholme, D.J, Knight, C.G, Preston, G.M. (2007) Integrated bioinformatic and phenotypic analysis of RpoN-dependent traits in the plant growth-promoting bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 Environmental Microbiology. 9 (12): pp 3046-3046doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2007.01416.x.

Pallen, MJ, Nelson, K, Preston, GM. (2007) Bacterial Pathogenomics . ASM Press. ISBN: 1555814514

Preston, GM, Guttman, DS, Toth, I. (2007) Post-genomic analysis of plant pathogenic bacteria Bacterial Pathogenomics. Eds. M. J. Pallen, K. Nelson, and G. M. Preston. ASM Press. ISBN: 1555814514. pp 392-418 

Preston, G.M. (2007) Metropolitan Microbes: Type III Secretion in Multihost Symbionts Cell Host and Microbe. 2 (5): pp 291-294doi:10.1016/j.chom.2007.10.004

Song, Y, Hahn, T, Thompson, I.P, Mason, T.J, Preston, G.M, Li, G, Paniwnyk, L, Huang, W.E. (2007) Ultrasound-mediated DNA transfer for bacteria Nucleic Acids Research. 35 (19):. doi:10.1093/nar/gkm710

Huang, W.E, Huang, L, Preston, G.M, Naylor, M, Carr, J.P, Li, Y, Singer, A.C, Whiteley, A.S, Wang, H. (2006) Quantitative in situ assay of salicylic acid in tobacco leaves using a genetically modified biosensor strain of Acinetobacter sp. ADP1 Plant Journal. 46 (6): pp 1073-1083doi:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2006.02758.x

Jackson, R.W, Preston, G.M, Rainey, P.B. (2005) Genetic characterization of Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 rsp gene expression in the phytosphere and in vitro Journal of Bacteriology. 187 (24): pp 8477-8488doi:10.1128/JB.187.24.8477-8488.2005

Preston, G.M, Studholme, D.J, Caldelari, I. (2005) Profiling the secretomes of plant pathogenic Proteobacteria FEMS Microbiology Reviews. 29 (2): pp 331-360.

Studholme, D.J, Downie, J.A, Preston, G.M. (2005) Protein domains and architectural innovation in plant-associated proteobacteria BMC Genomics. 6:.

Green, J.B, Fricke, B, Chetty, M.C, Von, During M, Preston, G.M, Stewart, G.W. (2004) Eukaryotic and prokaryotic stomatins: The proteolytic link Blood Cells, Molecules, and Diseases. 32 (3): pp 411-422doi:10.1016/j.bcmd.2004.01.016

Preston, G, Collmer, A. (2004) The type III secretion systems of plant-associated pseudomonads: Genes and proteins on the move Pseudomonas. Eds. J. L. Ramos. Plenum Press. ISBN: 0306483769. pp 181-219 

Preston, G.M. (2004) Plant perceptions of plant growth-promoting Pseudomonas Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences. 359 (1446): pp 907-918 

Gal, M, Preston, G.M, Massey, R.C, Spiers, A.J, Rainey, P.B. (2003) Genes encoding a cellulosic polymer contribute toward the ecological success of Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 on plant surfaces Molecular Ecology. 12 (11): pp 3109-3121

Preston, G.M, Bertrand, N, Rainey, P.B. (2001) Type III secretion in plant growth-promoting Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 Molecular Microbiology. 41 (5): pp 999-1014doi:10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02560.x

Penaloza-Vazquez, A, Preston, G.M, Collmer, A, Bender, C.L. (2000) Regulatory interactions between the Hrp type III protein secretion system and coronatine biosynthesis in Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 Microbiology. 146 (10): pp 2447-2456

Preston, GM. (2000) Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato: the right pathogen, of the right plant, at the right time Molecular Plant Pathology. 1 (5): pp 263-275.

Rainey, P.B, Preston, G.M. (2000) In vivo expression technology strategies: Valuable tools for biotechnology Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 11 (5): pp 440-444.

Charkowski, A.O, Alfano, J.R, Preston, G, Yuan, J, He, S.Y, Collmer, A. (1998) The Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato HrpW protein has domains similar to harpins and pectate lyases and can elicit the plant hypersensitive response and bind to pectate Journal of Bacteriology. 180 (19): pp 5211-5217

Deng, W.-L, Preston, G, Collmer, A, Chang, C.-J, Huang, H.-C. (1998) Characterization of the hrpC and hrpRS operons of Pseudomonas syringae pathovars syringae, tomato, and glycinea and analysis of the ability of hrpF, hrpG, hrcC, hrpT, and hrpV mutants to elicit the hypersensitive response and disease in plants Journal of Bacteriology. 180 (17): pp 4523-4531

Preston, G.M, Haubold, B, Rainey, P.B. (1998) Bacterial genomics and adaptation to life on plants: Implications for the evolution of pathogenicity and symbiosis Current Opinion in Microbiology. 1 (5): pp 589-597

Preston, G, Deng, W.-L, Huang, H.-C, Collmer, A. (1998) Negative regulation of hrp genes in Pseudomonas syringae by hrpV Journal of Bacteriology. 180 (17): pp 4532-4537

List of site pages