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MSc by Research Programme: A synthetic community approach to define the genetic mechanisms underpinning plant-microbiota interactions in the rhizosphere


About This PhD Project

Project Description

This course allows you to work alongside our world renowned experts from the School of Life Sciences and gain a ’real research’ experience. You will have the opportunity to select a research project from a variety of thematic areas of research.

You will be part of our collaborative working environment and have access to outstanding shared facilities such as microscopy and proteomics. Throughout your year, you will develop an advanced level of knowledge on your topic of interest as well as the ability to perform independent research in the topic area. Alongside basic science training in experimental design, data handling and research ethics, we will help you to develop skills in critical assessment and communication. This will be supported by workshops in scientific writing, presentation skills, ethics, laboratory safety, statistics, public engagement and optional applied bioinformatics.

The period of study is one year full-time or two years part-time research, which includes two months to write up the thesis. Please apply via the UCAS postgraduate application form: https://digital.ucas.com/courses/details?coursePrimaryId=c735d826-42b6-ca1f-50db-2a3ac6f68718


The proposed project will be integrated into our of our long-term efforts to reconstruct synthetic communities of the microbiota populating the rhizosphere, the thin layer of soil adhering to plant roots, and determine their presumed contributions to plant growth and health, using Barley (Hordeum vulgare) as an experimental model. In particular, the student will focus on subset of bacteria whose recruitment at the barley root-soil interface is regulated by the host plant. S/he will use a recolonization assay we recently established in our lab to define the impact of these bacteria on aboveground and root biomass (proxies for plant growth). In parallel, the student will define the host range of these bacteria by performing recolonization assays with different barley genotypes and monitoring bacterial proliferation in the rhizosphere using both cultivation-dependent (e.g., colony counts) and-independent (e.g., PCR-based biomarkers) approaches. Finally, the student will subject selected bacteria to whole-genome sequencing to reconstruct their metabolic potential. In the long term, the information gathered in this project will be critical for the rational development of microbial inoculants for agriculture.

Further reading:

Bulgarelli D. (2018) How Manipulating the Plant Microbiome Could Improve Agriculture. The Scientist 32:2
Robertson-Albertyn S., Alegria Terrazas, R., Balbirnie, K., Blank , M., Janiak , A., Szarejko, I., Chmielewsk a, B., Karcz, J., Morris, J., Hedley, P.E., George, T.S., and Bulgarelli, D. (2017). Root Hair Mutations Displace the Barley Rhizosphere Microbiota. Frontiers in plant science. 8, 1094.
Bulgarelli D., Garrido Oter R., Muench P., Weiman A., Droege J., Pan Y., McHardy A. and Schulze-Lefert P. (2015) Structure and Functions of the bacterial root microbiota in wild and domesticated barley. Cell Host and Microbe. 17:392-403.

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