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New insights into plant systemic immunity

   School of Life Sciences

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  Prof M Grant, Dr V Ntoukakis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Warwick United Kingdom Bioinformatics Genetics Molecular Biology Plant Biology

About the Project

This project is available through the MIBTP programme on a competition basis. The successful applicant will join the MIBTP cohort and will take part in all of the training offered by the programme. For further details please visit the MIBTP website -

All plants use disease resistance gene (R) products to protect themselves but pathogens often evolve to evade this recognition mechanism. When a resistance interaction occurs, a systemic immune response is activated, allowing infected tissues to tell the rest of the plant that it is in danger and mount robust defences – but we know very little about how this happens. If we can mechanistically understand systemic immunity, then there is enormous biotechnological potential to enhance crop yields.

Systemic signalling necessitates signal(s) generation in the local sensing leaf, its long distance translocation, delivery to, and decoding of, in the distal responding leaves. Importantly, systemic immunity provides broad spectrum resistance and its unlikely that a single signalling molecule (or two) – as had been the focus of research in this area in the past – can establish such extensive immunity. This is a fascinating area and this project deploys a wealth tools developed in the Arabidopsis thaliana- Pseudomonas syringae pathosystem.

This project builds on some very exciting results derived from a unique reporter constructs that implicates both jasmonate based plant hormone signalling and electrical signals in activating systemic immunity.

The candidate will work with real time whole plant imaging, novel signaling mutants, metabolomics, physiology and electrophysiological based experiments to understand the earliest events the lead to systemic acquired resistance, thus providing the knowledge to deploy systemic immunity effectively in the field.

This is a multidisciplinary project both in the research methodological approaches and diversity of approaches – exposing the applicant to new integrated approaches to bioscience research. Bioimaging (whole organism, subcellular), transcriptomics and metabolomics and electrophysiology approaches are integrated, providing training in analysis of genuine big and diverse data sets

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Understanding the Rules of Life: Plant Science

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:
• Plant pathology – local infection and systemic immune assays including bacterial enumeration.
• Bioimaging – both whole plant transcriptional dynamics using luciferase based assays and sub-cellular transport using YFP & GFP derivatives.
• Electrophysiology – basic electrophysiology looking at electrical potentials generated during challenges in different signalling mutants.
• Basic plant genetics and reverse genetics.
• Metabolomics. Application of both targeted – hormones - and untargeted profiling on local and systemic responding leaves