Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

MSc by Research: Feel the tension – how does S-acylation of OSCA ion channels regulate responses to environmental change in plants?

   School of Life Sciences

  Dr P Hemsley  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Plants, being sessile organisms, must sense and respond to environmental change, such as temperature or drought, without being able to move. Evolution has led to a diverse array of detection, signalling and mitigation responses, and understanding how these function and can be manipulated is a crucial factor for maintaining food security in response to climate change. 

Osmolarity Induced Ca2+ (OSCA) ion channels are conserved across eukaryotes (TMEM63 family; Murthy et al., 2018. eLife 7:e41844) and are used by plants to detect and respond to changes in osmotic potential. OSCA channels are thought to do this by detecting changes in membrane tension and rigidity (Douget & Honoré. 2019. Cell 179(2): 340-354). However, no mechanism underlying this hypothesised mode of action has been identified. We recently discovered that many OSCA ion channels are subject to a poorly understood type of post-translational modification called S-acylation. S-acylation involves the addition of long chain fatty acids to cysteine residues in proteins and acts to promote interaction of proteins, or domains of proteins, with membranes. S-acylation is unique amongst lipid modifications of proteins in that it is reversible; this allows it to regulate function in a similar way to phosphorylation or ubiquitination. S-acylation would provide an ideal mechanism for OSCA channels to detect changes in membrane tension, rigidity and fluidity.  We have since found evidence that OSCA channels are some of the most dynamically S-acylated proteins within the plant cell, indicating that OSCA channel function is regulated at some level by S-acylation.  

This project aims to elucidate how S-acylation affects OSCA channels in plants to provide greater insight into how plants mitigate against environmental stress. This will be done using an interdisciplinary approach, combining laboratory-based plant physiology, molecular biology, S-acylation assays, chemical biology, structural biology and biochemistry. You will join a diverse and collaborative lab with opportunities for a wide range of scientific and transferrable skills training. Recent ~£65 million investment in the Advanced Plant Growth Centre and International Barley Hub ensure that cutting edge plant growth facilities are available, in addition to the world leading biochemical, molecular, computational and imaging expertise and facilities at Dundee and Durham. 

This work will be a collaboration between the laboratories of Dr Piers Hemsley (Dundee), Prof. Ulrich Zachariae (Dundee) and Prof. Marc Knight (Durham, For further details and informal discussion prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Piers Hemsley () before submitting an application. 

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 

PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs