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Monitoring the rhizosphere via the integrity of the cell wall

International Max Planck Research School

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Prof R Oelmüller , Dr A Mithöfer No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Jena Germany Genetics Molecular Biology Plant Biology

About the Project

Background: The cell wall is essential for the protection of the plant cell, since almost all interactions with the environment (stress, pollutions, nutrient and water availability, pathogenic and symbiotic interactions, herbivore and nematode attacks, etc.) have a strong influence on its morphology and integrity. Even growth and differentiation requires rearrangements of cell wall material. All these processes are accompanied by cellulose breakdown and the accumulation of cellooligomer breakdown products. They activate a receptor in the plasmamembrane which initiates appropriate responses, mainly in roots. Also microorganisms in the rhizosphere have hijacked this detection system to manipulate the host plant metabolism for their own needs (Oelmüller, J. Plant Physiol. 2018; 229, 1-6; Johnson et al., Plant Physiol. 2018; 176: 2496ff).

Project Description: The project studies the cellooligomer perception system in roots of the model plant Arabidopsis. The goal is to understand its role for the performance of the plant under different environmental conditions (symbiotic interactions with beneficial microbes, pathogen attacks, abiotic stresses). Early signaling events in and around the plasma membrane will be investigated with molecular, biochemical and physicochemical tools. We want to understand how the cellooligomer-signaling pathway (i) balances growth and defense responses, (ii) transfers information from the roots to the shoots and (iii) informs neighboring plants about threat in the rhizosphere. For these studies, numerous mutants, reporter lines and symbiotic/pathogenic interaction systems are available or established in the lab.

About us: We offer a stimulating and dynamic working environment as well as excellent, state-of-the-art research facilities. The project is integrated in a long lasting cooperation between the two groups localized at the University and the MPI-CE. The successful candidate will be part of this consortium, interacts with PhD students and Postdocs at both institutions and will be supervised by the two PIs.

Candidate profile:

  • A strong background in plant physiology, molecular biology and genetics
  • Demonstrated expertise in molecular and genetic techniques
  • Previous work with model plants is a plus
  • Scientific and critical attitude
  • Curiosity, creativity, and ambition
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills
  • Ability to interact with other scientists in the group
  • Good communication skills
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English
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