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QUADRAT DTP: Temperature regulation of crop - rhizosphere ecology

Project Description

Crop plants manipulate rhizosphere interactions and community structure through the release of root exudates. Whilst root exudates can attract beneficial microbes, they are also exploited by pathogens and plant parasitic nematodes (PPNs). Our data indicate that temperature modifies tomato root exudate composition, altering interactions with microbes and PPNs. We have developed transcriptomic and small RNA datasets for developmentally matched tomato cv. Moneymaker seedlings grown at 18, 23 and 28 degrees C, revealing considerable regulation of diverse gene families, alongside small and long non-coding (nc)RNAs. Likewise, root exudate metabolomes reveal considerable variation in chemical composition as a factor of temperature. This represents a valuable experimental paradigm, which can be used to study the impact of temperature on plant biology and rhizoshpere interactions, from genes to ecosystems.

Our central hypothesis is that temperature-modulated genes and ncRNAs will regulate root exudate composition, influencing rhizosphere interactions relevant to crop health and yield. Understanding the role of individual ncRNAs in regulating these interactions will underpin efforts to develop improved, climate-resilient crops, and to understand rhizosphere ecology in the context of a changing climate.

This project will involve the development of transgenic tomato plants expressing RNAi / CRISPR-Cas9 constructs to study aspects of gene and ncRNA function. Individual temperature-regulated genes and ncRNAs will be related to root exudate chemistry using LC-Qtof-MS / GC-MS, and rhizosphere interactions and ecology, through molecular and behavioural assays. This project affords the successful candidate a range of exciting, world-class training opportunities, spanning a genuinely multidisciplinary focus, from computational biology and bioinformatics to gene manipulation; from root exudate metabolomics to behavioural assays and population structure. This project also includes a range of international training opportunities.

Start date:

1 October 2020


42 months


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.

Application procedure:

• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select ‘Visit Website’ to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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