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Investigating the cellular basis of organ symmetry establishment in plants (MOUBAYIDIN_J22DTP)

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  Dr L Moubayidin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

During multicellular organ development, the establishment of a symmetric pattern, e.g., radial and bilateral symmetry, requires careful coordination of cells dividing and expanding within tissues. This developmental challenge is genetically committed and impacts on organ function. 

Plants, which produce new organs post-embryonically such as roots, leaves and flowers, show a huge variety of ‘geometric’ (symmetric) shapes at the organ level, ranking from flat sheets with a left and right side (bilateral symmetry), to round and pea-like (radial symmetry). Despite its importance, our knowledge about symmetry foundation during organ development is very limited.

Therefore, the aim of this project is to elucidate the cellular basis underpinning symmetry foundation, using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system. 

To this end, the student will investigate the growth dynamics of wild-type gynoecium – the female reproductive structure of the flower - and will employ quantitative microscopy techniques, genetic and molecular experiments, to understand how cell-division and cell-expansion are coordinated during radial symmetry establishment. These experiments will be carried out alongside the analysis of a key loss-of-function mutant, to inform the cellular behaviours which break radial symmetry and promote a bilaterally symmetric pattern instead. Moreover, the project aims at elucidating a general, conserved mechanism(s) employed across plant organs to set up their symmetric patterns, thus, the student will investigate how specific cellular activities (such as cell proliferation and elongation) impact on root radial symmetry when driven under the control of tissue-specific promoters. Thus, overall, this project will shed light on the biological principles necessary to set up a ground symmetric type during organogenesis.

The research programme will provide the student with the opportunity to develop the skills and expertise to work at the cutting edge of biological science, in a highly stimulating environment. Moreover, they will be inducted into the existing JIC postgraduate training and mentoring programme, and benefit from attending relevant national and international conferences and outreach events to communicate their results and networking within the wider academic community.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP programme. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 25th January, Wednesday 26th January and Thursday 27th January 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2021/2 stipend rate: £15,609), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a.


1) Coordination of biradial-to-radial symmetry and tissue polarity by HD-ZIP II proteins.
Carabelli M, Turchi L, Morelli G, Østergaard L, Ruberti I, Moubayidin L. Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 14;12(1):4321.
2) Gynoecium formation: an intimate and complicated relationship. Moubayidin L and Østergaard L. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2017 Aug;45:15-21.
3) Dynamic control of auxin distribution imposes a bilateral-to-radial symmetry switch during gynoecium development. Moubayidin L, Ostergaard L. Curr Biol. 2014 Nov 17;24(22):2743-8.
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