Dawn Luthe, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Plant Stress Biology
Dawn Luthe, Ph.D.
216 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802
Work Phone: 814-863-3542


  1. B.S., Biochemistry, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 1971.
  2. M.S., Agronomy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1973.
  3. Ph.D., Agronomy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1976.
  4. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Oregon State University, Corvallis, 1979.

Research Interests

Plant Responses to the Environment

Dr. Luthe’s long-term research interest is to learn how plants respond to environmental stresses at the physiological, biochemical and molecular levels. Because plants are fixed in their environment, they cannot move to avoid biotic assaults from insect herbivores and plant pathogens or unfavorable abiotic conditions. The major area of research in her laboratory is focused on understanding the interplay between corn and attacking insect herbivores, mechanisms corn uses to mobilize defenses against caterpillar assault and effects of these plant defenses on caterpillar physiology. We use a wide range of techniques, including functional genomics and proteomics, to address these important questions in plant stress biology.

Courses Taught:


Current Members of the Lab:

  • Wen-Po Chuang, Ph.D. candidate
  • Yang Han, Ph.D. candidate
  • Swayamjit Ray, Ph.D. candidate
  • Shan Jin, Ph.D. candidate
  • Joseph Marchinchin, MS candidate
  • Paige Byrnes, WISER undergraduate

Professional Background:

  • Professor of Plant Stress Biology, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, January 2006 to present.
  • Adjunct and Emeritus Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mississippi State University. January 2006 to present.
  • Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State. July 1989 to December 2005.
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State. May 1984 to June 1989.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State. December 1979 to May 1984.

Selected Publications:

  • Pechan, T., L. Ye, Y-M Chang, A. Mitra, L. Lin, F.M. Davis, W.P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2000. A unique 33 kD cysteine proteinase accumulates in response to larval feeding in corn (Zea mays L) genotypes resistant to fall armyworm and other Lepidoptera. Plant Cell 12: 1031-1040.
  • Pechan, T, A. Cohen, W. P. Williams and D.S. Luthe 2002. Insect feeding mobilizes a unique plant defense protease that disrupts the peritrophic matrix of caterpillars. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 99: 13319-13323.
  • Pechan,T, P.W.K. Ma and D.S. Luthe. 2004. Heterologous expression of maize (Zea mays L.) Mir1 cysteine proteinase in eukaryotic and prokaryotic expression systems. Protein Expres. Purif. 34:134-141.
  • Harfouche, A.L., R. Shivaji, R. Stocker, W.P. Williams, and D.S. Luthe. 2006. Ethylene signaling mediates the maize defense response to insect herbivory. Mol Plant Microbe In. 19:189-199.
  • Mohan, S., P.K.W. Ma, T. Pechan, E.R. Bassford, E.R., W. P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2006. Degradation of the Spodoptera frugiperda peritrophic matrix by an inducible maize cysteine protease. J. Insect Physiol. 52: 21-28.
  • Lopez, L., A. Camas, A. Ankala, R. Shivaji, W. P. Williams and D.S. Luthe 2007. Mir1-CP, a novel defense cysteine protease accumulates in maize leaf phloem in response to herbivory. Planta 226: 517-527.
  • Magbanua, Z.V., C.M. De Moraes, T.D. Brooks, W.P. Willliams and D.S. Luthe. 2007. Is catalase activity associated with maize resistance to Aspergillus flavus? Mol. Plant Microbe In. 20: 697-706.
  • Zhu-Salzman, K., D. S. Luthe and G. W. Felton. 2008. Arthropod-inducible proteins: broad spectrum defenses against multiple herbivores. Plant Physiol. 146:852-858.
  • Mohan, S., P.K.W. Ma, W.P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2008. A naturally occurring plant cysteine protease possesses remarkable toxicity against insect pests and synergizes Bacillus thuringiensis Toxin. PLoS One 3: (published March 12, 2008)
  • Ankala, A., J.R. Wilkinson, W.P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2009. Integration of ethylene and jasmonic acid signaling pathways in the expression of maize defense protein Mir1-CP. Mol. Plant Microbe In. 22:1555-1564.
  • Peiffer. M., J.F. Tooker, D.S. Luthe and G.W. Felton. 2009. Plants on early alert: glandular trichomes as sensors for insect herbivores. New Phytol. 184:644-656.
  • Tooker, J. F, Peiffer M., D. S. Luthe, and G. W. Felton. 2010. Trichomes as sensors: detecting activity on the leaf surface. Plant Signal. Behav. 5: 71-73.
  • Peethambaran, B., L Hawkins, G.L. Windham, W. P. Williams, D. S. Luthe. 2010. Antifungal activity of maize silk proteins and role of chitinases in Aspergillus flavus resistance. Toxin Rev. 29: 27-39.
  • Shivaji, R, A. Camas, A. Ankala, J. Engelberth, J.H. Tumlinson, J.R. Wilkinson, W.P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2010. Plants on constant alert: Elevated levels of jasmonic acid and jasmonate-induced transcripts in caterpillar resistant maize. J. Chem. Ecol. 35: 179-191.
  • Pechanova, O, T. Pechan, S. Ozkan, F.M. McCarthy, W. P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2010. Proteome profile of the developing maize (Zea mays L.) rachis. Proteomics 10: 3051-3055.
  • Pechanova, O, T. Pechan, W. P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2011. Proteomic analysis of the maize rachis: Potential roles of constitutive and induced proteins in resistance to Aspergillus flavus and aflatoxin. Proteomics 11: 114-127
  • Gill, T.A., G. Sandoya, W.P. Williams and D.S. Luthe. 2011. Belowground resistance to western corn rootworm in Lepidopteran-resistant maize genotypes. J. Econ. Entomol. (in press)
  • Luthe, D.S., T. Gill, L. Zhu, L. Lopez, O. Pechanova, R. Shivaji, A. Ankala, and W.P. Williams. 2011. Aboveground to belowground signaling in maize: A two-way street? Plant Signal. Behav. 6(1).