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Post-translational regulation of transcription dynamics in plant immunity

  • Full or part time
    Dr S Spoel
    Dr E Bayne
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Precise regulation of gene transcription is vital for all organisms. In eukaryotes, dynamic changes in gene transcription orchestrate cell development and cellular responses to the ever changing environment. Failure to fine-tune gene transcription may have disastrous consequences for an organism, often resulting in disease or even death. Gene transcription is regulated by a myriad of transcriptional regulators. However, the mechanisms that control the activity of these regulators remain poorly understood. To investigate this we study the plant immune response. This system lends itself particularly well to studies of transcriptional regulators as activation of plant immunity is associated with rapid and dramatic transcription reprogramming of thousands of genes.

Our studies have uncovered that post-translational modification of transcriptional regulators plays a crucial role in regulating the expression of plant immune genes. Transcriptional regulator activity is controlled by redox-based modifications of cysteine residues, including disulphide bonding and S-nitrosylation (i.e. the covalent attachment of nitric oxide to a cysteine residue), as well as ubiquitination coupled to proteasome-mediated protein degradation. These different post-translational modifications may regulate the activity of regulators by modifying their localization, conformation, and stability. In this PhD project you will use a wide range of genetic, transcriptomic, proteomic and biochemical strategies to unravel how specific post-translational modifications affect the activity of immune-related transcriptional regulators and what their effects are on disease resistance. Ultimately, an in-depth understanding of the cellular switches that control immune activity will enable us to develop novel crop protection strategies.

There will be an optional opportunity to perform part of the research programme at the University of Nagoya to obtain a joint Edinburgh-Nagoya PhD degree.

For contact information, recent news, publications and further background to the research projects of the Spoel Research Group please visit and find us on Twitter @SpoelLab.

Funding Notes

The “Visit Website” button on this page will take you to our Online Application checklist. Please complete each step and download the checklist which will provide a list of funding options and guide you through the application process.

If you would like us to consider you for one of our scholarships you must apply by 5 January 2020 at the latest.


Skelly MJ, Furniss JJ, Grey HL, Wong KW, Spoel SH (2019) Dynamic ubiquitination determines transcriptional activity of the plant immune coactivator NPR1. bioRxiv 582296.

Furniss JJ, Grey H, Wang Z, Nomoto M, Jackson L, Tada Y, Spoel SH (2018) Proteasome-associated HECT-type ubiquitin ligase activity is required for plant immunity. PLoS PATHOG 14: e1007447.

Kneeshaw S, Keyani R, Delorme-Hinoux V, Imrie L, Loake GJ, Le Bihan T, Reichheld J-P, Spoel SH (2017) Nucleoredoxin Guards against Oxidative Stress by Protecting Antioxidant Enzymes. PROC. NATL. ACAD. SCI. USA (PNAS) 114: 8414-8419.

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

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