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Green perfect: how do plant photosynthetic tissues fill with chloroplasts, their "solar cells"?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, February 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Plant biology has arguably never been as relevant as it is today. The biology of chloroplasts underpins the biology of whole plants, and the two most-important impacts of plants for humanity: as food source and as carbon sink. Yet a surprising number of aspects of chloroplast biology remain poorly understood.
Chloroplast development is under the control of the plant cell’s nucleus, where the majority of chloroplast protein-encoding genes is located. As is typical through developmental biology across organisms, a fundamental question arises from the fact that all cells in a plant carry the same nuclear genetic information, yet different cell types in different organs carry vastly different chloroplast complements. How does this occur? How do cells turn chloroplast development on? When do they stop, at different points for different cell types? Why do mesophyll cells, those with the largest chloroplast complement, produce one layer, but no more, of chloroplasts sandwiched between the internal vacuole and the plasma membrane?
Identification in the last decade of master regulators of mitochondrial development in mammalian cells offers a paradigm for the search of hypothetical drivers of chloroplast development in plant cells. Building on earlier work in our lab, we have devised two novel genetic screens targeting this hypothetical "green switch" which drives chloroplast development, with different degrees of activity in different cell types, and arresting when mesophyll cells are "chloroplast-full".
Mutated genes will be isolated and the mode of action of the encoded proteins analysed through genetic, cellular and biochemical approaches. Their potential to alter the chloroplast compartment of cells will be explored.

This PhD project will be supervised jointly by:
1. Dr. Enrique López-Juez, Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
2. Prof. Peter Nixon, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London

Applicants are invited to contact supervisor(s) by email ahead of submitting their application. Further information about applying for a postgraduate course at Royal Holloway can be found here:

Applications should be submitted online:

Funding Notes

Shortlisted eligible studentship applicants, will be notified within two-three weeks of the application deadline. Formal studentship interviews will usually be held within three-four weeks of the application deadline.
The funding for the project will cover home/EU tuition fees and a yearly stipend.


Loudya, N., Okunola, T., He, J., jarvis, P. & Lopez Juez, E (2019) Retrograde signalling in a virescent mutant triggers an anterograde delay of chloroplast biogenesis that requires GUN1 and is essential for survival. Phil Trans Royal Soc London B: Biol. D.O.I. RSTB-2019-0400.R1
Jarvis P, Lopez-Juez E (2013) Biogenesis and homeostasis of chloroplasts and other plastids. Nat. Revs. Mol. Cell Biol. 14:787-802

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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