In Memoriam: Jonathan D. Walton


Jonathan Walton passed away on October 18, 2018, in Stanford, California, surrounded by his family following a brief illness. He was a professor in the US DOE Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University and was involved in much active research at the time of his passing, which came as a shock to many.

A brief and incomplete listing of his awards and accomplishments includes MSU Distinguished Faculty Award (2003); President of the International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (2003-2005); Fellow of the APS (2008); MSU Director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Center (2011); and Fellow of the AAAS (2012) (see more at Former students, postdocs, and visiting scholars of the Walton lab can be found on five continents, working in government, industry, and academia.

Jonathan was well known for his extensive work on plant-pathogen interactions and particularly his research on the biochemistry and genetics of HC toxin in the maize pathogen Cochliobolus carbonum. From the late 1990s to early 2000s his research focus expanded greatly to include the very different topics of bioenergy and amatoxin biosynthesis, and this summer saw the publication of his book The Cyclic Peptide Toxins of Amanita and Other Poisonous Mushrooms, a comprehensive update of Wieland’s 1979 classic Peptides of Poisonous Amanita Mushrooms. Simultaneously with his Amanita work, Jonathan’s interest and involvement in the MSA blossomed, and he served as local co-host with Frances Trail of the 2014 Annual Meeting at Michigan State University. He was an invited speaker at the 2017 NAMA Annual Foray at Cable, Wisconsin, presenting on Amanita toxins, and his enthusiasm for the forays and the mushrooms was contagious.

Personally, I am thankful to have had Jon Walton as a graduate committee member, a postdoc PI, and, ultimately, as a friend.

Heather Hallen-Adams, University of Nebraska-Lincoln