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MSc by Research: Do any Bacillus subtilis strains have an inhibitory effect on phytophthora pathogens and potential as a future biocontrol?

   School of Life Sciences

  Dr Eleonor Gilroy, Prof Nicola Stanley-Wall  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The world needs a sustainable and secure supply of fresh and affordable food. Increased demand for berries is driven by their popularity and consumer belief in their healthful properties. Like many crop and tree species, strawberries and raspberries are susceptible to oomycete diseases. Oomycetes have evolved to form intricate collaborative networks and mixed-species biofilms under natural conditions that influence their physiology (Kemen, 2014; Larousse & Galiana, 2017). For example, studies reveal that soil-living bacteria may provide virulence signals or even collaborate with oomycetes to aid growth and infection of host plants. Some Phytophthoras can actively encourage specific bacterial associations by producing extracellular signalling molecules that mediates quorum sensing in diverse bacterial species (Kong & Hong, 2016). Bacillus subtilis has been found to display an efficient inhibitory effect on soybean pathogen, Phytophthora sojae (Liu et al., 2019). Other studies have shown that another species, Bacillus megaterium, could promote and suppress particular Phytophthora plant pathogenic species (Kong & Hong, 2016).  

Phytophthora root rot has reduced in-soil raspberry production by 80 % in the UK (Graham et al., 2011). Phytophthora rubi causes long term contamination of soil and chemical control options are reducing. This means that there is an urgent need to find durable and sustainable methods to produce raspberries. The aim of this project is to explore the interactions between Phytophthora rubi and Bacillus subtilis (a bacterium implemented as a biocontrol agent) with the goal of informing sustainable crop protection methods. 

The student will learn to work with both bacteria and pathogenic oomycetes and will implement experiments to screen Bacillus subtilis strains for a direct inhibitory effect on phytophthora pathogens. The student will also investigate the dynamics of microbe-microbe interactions in the raspberry rhizosphere and the impact on plant immunity and health. The student will learn basic microbiology and molecular plant pathology techniques and help make the exciting first steps that may lead to the identification of a potential biocontrol agent. It is envisioned that the data generated by the student will provide publishable advances in the field of molecular plant pathology. The student will also provide commercially relevant information about novel and sustainable crop protection methods through their work. 

Please see our website for further details on the programme:

Life Sciences MSc by Research MSc by Research (Postgraduate) : Study : University of Dundee

Please note before submitting your application that you must list your top three project choices in the Research Proposal section of the application form.

You apply for this course using our Direct Application System. Once you've signed up for an account you'll be asked to search for a course.

To find Life Science MSc by Research you should select the following options:

·      Course type: Research Postgraduate

·      Keyword: Life

When you complete your form, you should include your top 3 project choices, 2 letters of reference, uploaded under "Other Information" > "Supporting documents" and a personal statement. Failure to do so will delay your application.

Please note when submitting an application that we have the following deadline dates throughout the year:

September Starts - Application Deadline 1st May, Interview Date - Late June

January Starts - Application Deadline 1st Sep, Interview Date - Late October

May Starts - Application Deadline 1st Feb, Interview Date Late March


Graham J, Hackett CA, Smith K, Woodhead M, MacKenzie K, Tierney I, Cooke D, M. Bayer M & Jennings N (2011) Towards an understanding of the nature of resistance to Phytophthora root rot in red raspberry. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 123:585–601
Kemen E (2014) Microbe-microbe interactions determine oomycete and fungal host colonization. Curr Opin Plant Biol.20:75-81
Kong P, Hong C (2016). Soil bacteria as sources of virulence signal providers promoting plant infection by Phytophthora pathogens. Sci Rep. 6:33239
Larousse M, Galiana E (2017) Microbial Partnerships of Pathogenic Oomycetes. PLOS Pathogens 13: e1006028. DOI:10.1371
Liu D, Li K , Hu J, Wang W, Liu X & Gao Z (2019) Biocontrol and Action Mechanism of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens and Bacillus subtilis in Soybean Phytophthora Blight. Int. J. Mol. Sci., 20: 2908;
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