Martha C. Hawes

Marley 341E
Office Phone: 
(520) 621-5490
(520) 621-1647

June 1974. B.S. degree in Biology. Centre College, Kentucky.

May 1980. M.S. degree in Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky.

May 1982. Ph.D. degree in Plant Pathology (Mechanisms of Plant Pathogenesis), University of Kentucky.

American Phytopathological Society

American Society for Plant Biology

Botanical Society of America

Pelton Award for sustained and creative contributions to experimental plant morphology:  Dr. Martha C. Hawes, University of Arizona.  Martha C. Hawes is well known for her work on root border cells. In the past, most people considered these cells to be ”sloughed-off root caps cells” that were non-viable and without function. Martha’s entire career has focused on changing this perception and now border cells are described in numerous botany textbooks. Throughout her entire career, she has been very creative in designing experiments to understand the basic biology of this unique cell type especially in light of how border cells fight plant disease. These metabolically active and viable border cells “trap’ fungi and other potential pathogens, which are then detached from the root surface leaving the root tip free of infection. Considering that the root tip serves as one of the major sources of root exudates that can attract microbial pathogens, the fact that this exceptionally vulnerable region of the root is protected from infection by the border cells is a real paradigm shift, especially via the mechanism Dr. Hawes proposes.

New Grants for 2015 (Principal Investigator)

Catalyzing New Interdisciplinary Research, Office of Research and Discovery: Defining ranges for extracellular DNA and DNase I in human plasma 

National Science Foundation, Integrative Organismal Systems:
Extracellular DNA: in defense of plant cells

Previous Grants:

 National Science Foundation grant with Dr. Zhongguo Xiong: Extracellular DNA in defense of plant cells:

2010-current.  Professor, Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona

2004-2009. Professor, Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Plant Sciences, University of Arizona.

1999-2004. Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, UA

1993-1999. Associate Professor, Departments of Plant Pathology and Molecular and Cellular Biology, UA

1986-1992. Assistant Professor, Departments of Plant Pathology and Molecular and Cellular Biology, UA

1983-1984. Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida

1984-1986. Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Missouri

The goal of my research is to improve crop protection, especially in arid environments like the desert Southwest, by exploiting natural disease and drought resistance mechanisms employed by plant roots. My program at the University of Arizona has focused on basic research to describe how crop plants alter the properties of the root-soil environment and thereby modulate microbial community structure in the rhizosphere. The specific goal has been to define the function of root 'border' cells, a population of specialized cells programmed to separate from root tips into the soil where they can stimulate growth and gene expression in beneficial bacteria and fungi, and inhibit growth of pathogens. Of particular interest is the role of border cells in a highly effective form of resistance to root tip infection by soilborne fungal, bacterial and nematode pathogens and to cellular injury by toxins such as aluminum. We now have established that border cells function to protect the root meristem by operating in a manner analogous to mammalian white blood cells: Upon deployment to the soil, border cells actively secrete a complex of polysaccharides, antimicrobial proteins, and extracellular DNA along with soluble metabolites which together function to localize and control microbial growth and development (Hawes et al. 2012, Plant Soil 355:1-16). The primary focus of current research efforts is to exploit this discovery to facilitate new avenues for improved crop production 
(Curlango-Rivera et al. 2013, Phytopathology 103: 255-260; Curlango-Rivera et al. 2013, American Journal of Botany 109: 9-16)

1999-2005. Current Topics in Plant Biology, Journal Club.
1989-2008. Principles of Plant Microbiology, PLP 550
1989-2007. Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions, PLP 621
1989-2009. Director, Winter Term Fellowships in Biological Research

Tollefson SJ, Curlango-Rivera G, Huskey DA, Pew T, Giacomelli G, Hawes MC (2015) Altered carbon delivery from roots: rapid, sustained inhibition of border cell dispersal in response to compost water extracts.  Plant Soil 378: 145-156.

Hawes MC, Wen F, Elquza E (2015) Extracellular DNA: a bridge to cancer.  Cancer Research 15: 1546-52.

Wang W, Curlango-Rivera G, Xiong Z, VanEtten H, Turgeon BG, Hawes MC (2015) An extracellular DNase from the phytopathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus is a virulence factor as found for bacterial pathogens of animals.  Proceedings, Asilomar Fungal Genetics Meeting, March 2015.

Curlango-Rivera G, Hawes, M.C. et al. (2015) Roots: Contribution to the Rhizosphere. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, A20077.     

Wen F, Brigham LA., Curlango-Rivera G,  Hawes MC (2014) Altered growth and root tip morphology in Pisum sativum L. in response to altered expression of a gene expressed in border cells.  Plant Soil 377:179-187.

Curlango-Rivera G,  Cho I, Huskey DA, Xiong Z, Hawes MC (2014) Signals controlling extracellular trap formation in plant and animal immune responses.  Clinical Microbiology 3: 5-8. 

Curlango-Rivera G, Pew T, VanEtten HD, Zhongguo X, Yu N, Hawes MC (2013) Measuring root disease suppression in response to a compost water extract.  Phytopathology 355: 1-16.

Curlango-Rivera G, Huskey DA, Mostafa A, Kessler JO, Xiong Z, Hawes MC (2013) Intraspecies variation in cotton border cell production: rhizosphere microbiome implications.  American Journal of Botany 100: 9-15.

Driouich A, Follet-Gueye M, Vicre-Gibouin M, Hawes MC (2013) Root border cells and secretions as critical elements in plant host defense.  Current Opinion in Plant Biology 16: 1-5.

Hawes MC, Xiong Z, Curlango-Rivera G, Kessler JO (2012)  Discoveries in DNA defense.  International Innovation 5: 15-17.

Hawes MC, Curlango-Rivera G, Xiong Z, Kessler JO (2012) Roles of root border cells in plant defense of rhizosphere microbial populations by extracellular DNA 'trapping'.  Marschner review, Plant and Soil 355: 1-16.

Hawes MC, Curlango-Rivera G, Wen F, White G, VanEtten HD, Xiong Z (2011)  Extracellular DNA:  the tip of root defenses?   Plant Science 180: 741-745.

Curlango-Rivera G, Hawes MC (2011)  Plant Signalling and Behavior 6 (5): 1-2.  Root tips moving through soil: an intrinsic vulnerability. 

Cannesan MA, Gangneux C, Lanoue A, Giron D, Laval K, Hawes MC, Driouich A, Vicre-Gibouin M (2011) Association between border cell responses and localized root infection by pathogenic Aphanomyces euteiches.  Annals of Botany 108: 459-466..

Curlango-Rivera R, Duclos DV, Ebolo JJ, Hawes MC (2010) Transient exposure of root tips to primary and secondary metabolites: Impact on root growth and production of border cells. Plant and Soil 306: 206-216.

Hawes MC, Ronald P, editors (2009) Focus Issue (

Wen F, White GJ, VanEtten HD, Xiong Z, Hawes MC (2009) Extracellular DNA is required for root tip resistance to fungal infection. Plant Physiology 151: 820-829.

Curlango-Rivera G, Albala G, Kemp JP, Duclos DV, Hawes MC (2009) Contribution of the root cap to soil fertility: extracellular plant lectins. Soil Fertility, Editors DP Lucero, JE Boggs, Nova Science Publishers.

Wen F, Celoy R, Price I, Ebolo JJ, Woo HH, Hawes MC (2008) Identification and characterization of a rhizosphere beta-galactosidase from Pisum sativum L. Plant and Soil 304: 133-144.

Wen F, Celoy RM, Nguyen T, Zeng W, Keegstra K, Woo HH, Pauly M, Immerzee P, Hawes MC (2008) Altered cell wall structure and function in pea hairy roots expressing Pisum sativum xyloglucan fucosyltransferase (Psfut1) antisense mRNA. Plant Cell Reports 27: 1125-1135.

Wen F, Woo HH, Pierson EA, Eldhuset TD Fossdal CG, Nagy NE, Hawes MC (2008) Synchronous elicitation of development in root caps induces transient gene expression changes common to legume and gymnosperm species. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 27: 58-68.

Woo HH, Jeong BR, Koo KB, Hirsch AM, Hawes MC (2007) Modifying expression of closely related UDP- glycosyltransferases from pea and Arabidopsis results in altered root development and function. Physiologia Plantarum 130: 250-260.

Wen F, Curlango-Rivera G, Hawes MC (2007) Proteins among the polysaccharides: a new perspective on root cap ‘slime.’ Plant Signaling & Behavior 2: 410-412.

Wen F, VanEtten H, Tsaiprailis G, Hawes MC (2007) Extracellular proteins in Pisum sativum L. root tip and border cell exudates. Plant Physiol 143: 773-783.

Woo HH, Byeong RJB, Hirsch AM, Hawes MC (2007) Characterization of Arabidopsis AtUGT85A and AtGUS gene families and their expression in rapidly dividing tissues. Genomics 90: 143-153.

Gunawardena U, Zhao X, Hawes MC (2006) Update on Roots: Contribution to the Rhizosphere. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences 1. http://www.els/net.

Hawes MC, Wen F, Woo HH (2006) Roots and Soil Management: Interactions between roots and the soil, pp 107-119. Co-Editors R.W. Zobel, S.F. Wright, American Society of Agronomy, Madison Wisconsin.