Characterisation of nematode-induced feeding-site cell walls

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Prof P. Urwin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Plant-parasitic nematodes are important agricultural pests. The most damaging species induce unique structures termed feeding-sites within a plant, through secretion of effector proteins and modification of host gene expression. The feeding-site supplies all nutritional requirements to the sedentary nematode and is essential to parasitic success. A striking feature is the extensive remodeling of feeding-site cell walls. Our preliminary immunocytochemical analysis indicates that feeding-site cell wall composition is distinct from that of surrounding root cells. Understanding the nature of these cell walls and how the changes are induced could lead to intervention methods that disrupt nematode pathogenesis.

1. Employ a panel of monoclonal antibodies and carbohydrate-binding modules to investigate cell wall composition of nematode feeding-sites for a range of nematode species/host-plant interactions. Define both common and species-specific characteristics.
2. Use novel glycome profiling techniques to quantify changes in cell wall epitopes during nematode development.
3. Investigate the role of specific cell wall components that influence eg. mechanical strength, flexibility through nematode infection of Arabidopsis mutants.
4. Confirm the role of key cell wall components for feeding-site function in crop plants. Identify target plant genes, create RNAi constructs for gene knockdown in crop plants.
5. Identify nematode effectors that may induce cell wall changes during feeding-site formation. Investigate their function using RNAi, over-expression in host plants and two-hybrid analysis of interacting plant proteins.

The unique combination of nematology and cell wall expertise allows this important aspect of plant-nematode interactions to be investigated. Leeds has the only UK group with ability to study a full range of economically important nematode species - analysis that could lead to generic crop protection solutions.

The student will benefit from this being a collaborative project between two different laboratories that specialize in, and have international reputations in, distinctive activities. The project will encompass elements of genomics, glycomics, plant cellular physiology, molecular biology, and plant nematology. This combination of interdisciplinary skills and experience of different scientific environments will allow the student to possess a broad set of skills upon completion of their PhD.

Funding Notes

Faculty Competition


1. Atkinson, N.J., Dew T.P., Orfila C & Urwin, P.E. (2011) Influence of Combined Biotic and Abiotic Stress on Nutritional Quality Parameters in Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59: 9673-82.
2. Lord, J.S., Lazzeri, L., Atkinson, H.J. & Urwin, P.E. (2011) Biofumigation for control of pale potato cyst nematodes: activity of brassica leaf extracts and green manures on Globodera pallida in vitro and in soil. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry 59: 7882-7890.
3. Wang, D., Jones, L.M., Urwin, P.E. & Atkinson, H.J. (2011) A synthetic peptide shows retro- and anterograde neuronal transport before disrupting the chemosensation of plant-pathogenic nematodes. PLoS ONE 6:(3) e17475
4. Fuller, V.L., Lilley, C.J. and Urwin P.E. (2008) Nematode Resistance. New Phytologist 180:27-44.

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