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Antibiotic discovery in the wheat rhizosphere (HUTCHINGSU20DTP)

Project Description

This project is focussed on the interactions between common bread wheat Triticum aestivum, which provides fundamental nutrition to much of the world’s population, and antibiotic-producing Streptomyces bacteria. Streptomyces species make 50% of all known antibiotics but most of the antibiotics they encode are not made under laboratory growth conditions, and we suspect this is because their production is switched on by host or environmental signals which we have not yet identified, including plant root exudates. Plants exude up to 40% of their fixed carbon through their roots and these root exudates attract bacteria and thus help the plants assemble a beneficial microbiome that boosts the plant immune system, protects against disease and helps the plants access nutrients from the soil. These beneficial bacteria include Streptomyces species and we have shown that some Streptomyces strains can protect wheat plants against the Take-all fungus which is the most commercially important disease of wheat worldwide. Some of these strains also boost the growth of wheat plants by providing nutrients and making plant growth hormones.

This interdisciplinary project is focused on identifying the best strains for promoting wheat growth and protecting against Take-all from a library of strains we have isolated from wheat roots. The successful applicant will also identify the antibiotics responsible for these protective effects and determine whether the production of these (and other) antibiotics are switched on by wheat root exudates.

This is a collaboration between Matt Hutchings at UEA and Barrie Wilkinson and Anne Osbourne at the John Innes Centre and offers excellent training and access to state-of-the-art research facilities. There will be opportunities to commercialise the outputs from this project and to engage in science communication at festivals and schools to widen the impact pf the research.

Project supervisor:
Project sponsor: Norwich Research Park Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: 1 October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 4 years


- First degree (2:1 or above) in relevant subject
- English language (IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each section)


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements

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