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Plasmodesmata in Nutrient Signaling and Use Efficiency

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr Y Benitez-Alfonso  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium are all essential elements for plant development. Roots perceive the lack of these nutrients in the soil and respond by activating signalling pathways that readjust shoot development and root system architecture to enhance nutrient acquisition. Phloem-mediated transport is an essential component of this response. Shoot-derived mobile RNAs, proteins, sugars and other metabolites rely on intercellular channels named plasmodesmata to move in and out of the phloem. Here we will alter the transport capacity of these channels aiming to improve nutrient allocation and response to nutrient deficiency. Proteins involved in opening/closing plasmodesmata have been recently identified in the host lab and will be used here to modify plasmodesmata in shoots and roots. Results from this research will have applications in the biotechnological improvement of crop growth and nutrient efficiency aiming to greater food security and more sustainable agriculture.
Students are encouraged to consult and contact Dr. Benitez-Alfonso to discuss potential PhD projects in these areas.

Funding Notes

Funding opportunities to undertake this and other projects at the UoL are available at


1. Benitez-Alfonso Y; Faulkner C; Pendle A; Miyashima S; Helariutta Y; Maule A. Symplastic Intercellular Connectivity Regulates Lateral Root Patterning. Developmental Cell 26 136-147, 2013
2. Knox JP; Benitez-Alfonso Y. Roles and regulation of plant cell walls surrounding plasmodesmata. Current opinion in plant biology. 22C 93-100, 2014
3. Benitez-Alfonso Y, Cilia M, San Roman A, Thomas C, Maule A, Hearn S and Jackson D. (2009) Control of Arabidopsis meristem development by thioredoxin-dependent regulation of intercellular transport. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106(9): 3615-20.
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