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Exploiting S-nitrosylation to establish novel strategies for improved crop traits

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof Gary Loake  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

*The difference between international and UK fee rate will be covered by the University of Edinburgh for successful candidates*

Supervisors: Gary Loake, Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh ([Email Address Removed]) and Huixia Shou, College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University ([Email Address Removed])

An MSc degree is not a requirement.

Project details

The small, redox active molecule, nitric oxide (NO), is a key orchestrator of cellular signalling systems throughout eukaryotes. In plants, NO is central to the control of immunity, responses to the environment and multiple developmental programmes. A major route for the transfer of NO bioactivity is S-nitrosylation, the addition of an NO moiety to a reactive cysteine (Cys) thiol, embedded in a target protein, to form an S-nitrosothiol (SNO). This, prototypic, redox-based, post-translational modification (PTM), is conceptually similar to more established PTMs such as phosphorylation, although far less understood. In this context, S-nitrosylation can modulate protein function, for example, by regulating enzyme activity, protein localization, protein-protein interactions, protein degradation and protein-DNA binding.

 Until recently, S-nitrosylation was thought to be driven largely by NO chemistry. However, now excitingly a series of enzymes are emerging, termed nitrosylases, that can add NO to specific Cys residues in target proteins, together with, de-nitrosylases, which can specifically remove these NO adducts. Thus, these enzymes are conceptually similar to kinases and phosphatases, that operate in phosphorylation and de-phosphorylation, respectively. How these enzymes exert their control over plant biology remains to be established. In addition, S-nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNOR), constitutes an additional mechanism to control global S-nitrosylation, with loss-of-function mutations in this gene disrupting plant immunity and key aspects of development, underscoring the importance of S-nitrosylation in plant biology.  

 To date, these findings have been largely determined in Arabidopsis, a model dicot plant species. In this project, we will explore S-nitrosylation in the monocot crop species, rice and barley, with a view to developing novel strategies to establish crops with enhanced disease resistance and / or increased protection against environmental stress, utilising gene editing strategies to reprogramme identified target genes. 

PI Websites:

Gary Loake

Huixia Shou

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Funding Notes

The difference between international and UK fee rate will be covered by the University of Edinburgh for successful candidates. Successful candidates will be required to provide evidence of funding to cover the UK fee rate, plus living expenses of approximately £15k per year.


1. Yun, B-W., Feechan, A., Yin, M., Saidi, N. B.B., Yu, M., Le Bihan, T. Kang, J.-G., Kwon, E., Spoel, S., Pallas, J.A. and Loake, G.J. (2011). S-nitrosylation of NADPH oxidase regulates cell death in plant immunity. Nature 478, 264-268.
2. Feechan, A., Kwon, E.-J., Yun, B.-W., Wang, Y., Pallas, J.A. and Loake, G.J. (2005). A Central Role for S-Nitrosothiols in Plant Disease Resistance. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 8054-8059.
3. Cui, B., Pan, Q., Clarke, D.,Yuan, B., Shan, W., Jiang, J-H. and Loake, G.J. (2018). S-nitrosylation of the zinc finger protein, SRG1, regulates plant immunity. Nature Comm. 9, 4226.
4. Skelly, MJ., Malik, S.I., Le Bihan, T., Bo, Y., Spoel, S.H., Jiang, J. Loake, G.J. (2019). S-nitrosylation of the SUMO-conjugating enzyme, SCE1, regulates plant immunity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 116, 17090-17095.

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