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Apoplastic signalling in the interaction between plant-parasitic nematodes and their host plants

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, December 20, 2018
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Plant-parasitic nematodes are economically important crop pathogens that cause billions of dollars of crop losses to agriculture throughout the world. They are good examples of pathogens that have evolved sophisticated interactions with a host in order to avoid the plant’s defences and live successfully inside the plant. Endoparasitic nematodes invade host roots and stimulate root vascular tissue to undergo cell division and re-differentiate into unique and metabolically active “feeding sites” from which they feed for a number of weeks. The profound changes in plant cell ultrastructure and physiology that characterise the feeding sites are brought about by the action of so-called “effector proteins” secreted from the nematodes [1]
It is becoming clear that the region outside plant cells, called the apoplast, is an important site of action for some nematode effectors. However, the signalling pathways triggered by these effectors, which lead to a series of molecular, biochemical and morphological changes in root cells, are largely uncharacterised. Similarly the apoplastic plant molecules important in plant nematode interactions are poorly understood.
The broad aim of this project is to understand in detail the signalling processes that occur in the root apoplast during plant-nematode interactions together with their downstream effects. The flexible nature of a Gosden studentship provides scope for the project to be tailored towards the successful student’s particular interests and the student will be encouraged to have input into the project design. As an example, we have identified nematode effectors that localise to, or are active in, the apoplast [2,3] and these could form the basis for further study. In particular, some nematode effectors mimic plant peptide hormones that interact with the apoplastic domains of receptor-like kinases to modulate plant cell development. One line of investigation could elucidate the receptors bound by the nematode mimics and their role in development of the feeding site.

Funding Notes

Project is eligible for funding under the Gosden PhD Studentship scheme. The successful candidate will receive a PhD studentship for 4 years, covering fees at UK/EU level and stipend at research council level (£14,777 for 2018-19).
Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 or above at undergraduate level in a relevant area. If English is not your first language, you will also be required to meet our language entry requirements. The PhD is to start in Oct 2019.
Please apply online View Website and include project title and supervisor name, and upload a CV and transcripts.


[1] Mitchum, M.G. et al. (2013) Nematode effector proteins: an emerging paradigm of parasitism. New Phytologist 199: 879–894.
[2] Eves-van den Akker, S., Lilley C.J., Jones, J.T. & Urwin, P.E. (2014) Identification and characterisation of a hyper-variable apoplastic effector gene family of the potato cyst nematodes. PLoS Pathogens 10(9): e1004391
[3] Eves-van den Akker, S., Lilley, C.J., Yusup, H.B., Jones, J.T. & Urwin, P.E. (2016) Functional C-terminally encoded plant peptide (CEP) hormone domains evolved de novo in the plant parasite Rotylenchulus reniformis. Molecular Plant Pathology 17:1265-75.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

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