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Investigation of a Novel Regulator of Plant Yield and Fitness in Plants

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

Autophagy is an incredibly important and highly conserved process across eukaryotes and involves the regulated destruction of unnecessary or damaged components within the cell. Autophagy is key to many cellular processes and is relevant to plant fitness, nutrient recycling and crop yield. Experiments indicate that increasing autophagic flux in crops would improve nutrient use in particular a better use of nitrogen. Therefore, identifying new regulators of autophagy could have important applications for improving food security.
ATG8 is a protein which is involved in the assembly, maturation and transport of the autophagosome during the autophagy. Our lab has discovered a protein in the genome of Arabidopsis, linked with reduced autophagy that has ATG8 binding domains. This protein has potential in crop biotech to be targeted to improve nutrient use by directed mutations.
The student will investigate the link between this protein and autophagy regulation. The student will test the binding of this protein to ATG8, using transient expression in tobacco, FLIM/FRET confocal microscopy and pull-down assays. Knock-down and up-regulated GM lines in Arabidopsis will be created and analysed for a modified fitness phenotype.

Training/techniques to be provided:
Cloning, Agro-transfection, Agro-transformation of plants, confocal imaging, FLIM/FRET analysis of protein interactions, mutant genotyping, RT-Q-PCR for gene expression, western analysis.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject. Candidates with an interest in plant cell biology or plant molecular genetics are encouraged to apply.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


1. Minina, E.A., Moschou, P.N., Vetukuri, R.R., Sanchez-Vera, V., Cardoso, C., Liu, Q., Elander, P.H., Dalman, K., Beganovic, M., Lindberg Yilmaz, J. and Marmon, S., 2018. Transcriptional stimulation of rate-limiting components of the autophagic pathway improves plant fitness. Journal of experimental botany, 69(6), pp.1415-1432.
2. Cai, Y.M., Yu, J., Ge, Y., Mironov, A. and Gallois, P., 2018. Two proteases with caspase‐3‐like activity, cathepsin B and proteasome, antagonistically control ER‐stress‐induced programmed cell death in Arabidopsis. New Phytologist, 218(3), pp.1143-1155.
3. Ge, Y., Cai, Y.M., Bonneau, L., Rotari, V., Danon, A., McKenzie, E.A., McLellan, H., Mach, L. and Gallois, P., 2016. Inhibition of cathepsin B by caspase-3 inhibitors blocks programmed cell death in Arabidopsis. Cell death and differentiation, 23(9), p.1493.
4. Miller, M.A., O’Cualain, R., Selley, J., Knight, D., Karim, M.F., Hubbard, S.J. and Johnson, G.N., 2017. Dynamic acclimation to high light in Arabidopsis thaliana involves widespread reengineering of the leaf proteome. Frontiers in plant science, 8, p.1239.

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