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Gene editing and molecular breeding for fungal disease resistance in lettuce

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  • Full or part time
    Prof K Denby
    Dr F Gawthrop
    Dr John Clarkson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This studentship offers an innovative opportunity to combine state-of-the-art molecular skills (footprint-free gene editing, RNA sequencing, genomics) with genetics, plant pathology, crop, model plant, lab and field work. You will be well integrated into A L Tozer Ltd. breeding teams as well as the White Rose BBSRC Mechanistic Biology Doctoral Training Partnership.

Lettuce is the most valuable fresh vegetable crop in the UK, with a home production value of £154 million and export value of £13 million. Botrytis cinerea and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, two fungal pathogens, cause substantial losses on field-grown and protected lettuce crops and crucially, strike late in the growing season after the significant cost of inputs required for production. Chemical control is problematic with restrictions on spraying and fungicides being medium-high risk for development of pathogen resistance. Development of crop disease resistance is a more sustainable solution to prevent waste. This project builds on a successful collaboration between Prof. Denby and A L Tozer Ltd combining systems biology and quantitative genetics to identify sources of disease resistance for incorporation into elite lettuce varieties to enhance the sustainability of production.

The project will involve working with Tozer to:
• Identify genes underlying QTL conferring disease resistance (disease assays, molecular markers and genetic crosses)
• Test candidate genes for their ability to enhance disease resistance by overexpression in Arabidopsis
• Use footprint-free gene editing to test the role of candidate genes in disease resistance in lettuce
• Elucidate how key regulators of the lettuce defence response function
• Develop a mapping population from an elite breeding line with field resistance against S. sclerotiorum and Iceberg cultivar for genotyping and phenotyping.

The Denby group contains experienced postdoctoral scientists working on leafy vegetables, disease resistance and transcriptional regulation, as well as computational expertise. CNAP provides a supportive environment of plant scientists combining fundamental and applied research.

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year fully-funded industrial CASE studentship part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. The supervisors are Professor Katherine Denby (University of York) and Dr Frances Gawthorpe (A L Tozer Ltd). The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year), (ii) tuition fees at UK/EU rate, (iii) research consumables and training necessary for the project. The industry partner (A L Tozer Ltd) will provide an annual supplement to the studentship of £2,800.


Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding

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