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Structure-function analysis of a plant viral movement protein


School of Biology

Sunday, December 13, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Background
Plant viruses are major crop pathogens which cause $60 billion annual damage to the global agri-economy and threaten sustainable food production. All plant viruses must overcome the barrier of the plant cell wall when spreading through their host organism. To this end, they encode so-called movement proteins, which mediate the transport of viral RNA or DNA genomes through plasmodesmata, membranous intercellular channels with only a few nanometers of free internal diameter. The mechanism by which viral movement proteins are able to transport megadalton-size macromolecules through such narrow passages is unknown, and to date, no structural information is available for any of these proteins.

Project details
Our recent research has established approaches to characterise movement proteins in vitro and established a model for the transport mechanism. The project will extend on these findings to
1) Undertake a detailed characterisation of RNA-binding under different conditions and comparing wild-type and point-mutated protein variants
2) Produce samples suitable for structural analysis by cryo-electron microscopy.

Training opportunities and student experience
The student will receive extensive experience in molecular biology, protein production and purification, biochemistry, biophysical methods, electron microscopy (negative stain & cryo-EM) and advanced fluorescence imaging.
The University of St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland and consistently ranked as amongst the UK’s top ten universities, currently ranked 2nd place in the Guardian University Guide 2020. The Biomedical Sciences Research Complex at St Andrews is an interdisciplinary research centre where biological, chemical, physical and medical laboratories collaborate under one roof, focusing on host-pathogen interactions. Part of the host lab is located at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee, a world-leading plant research center with particular focus on molecular plant-pathogen interactions which offers comprehensive plant growth facilities (including class 2 containment glass houses) and an extensive imaging suite. The student will be embedded in a highly stimulating and interactive research environment with free access to extensive career and transferable skills programmes.

Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Tilsner for informal enquiries:
Applications can be made online via our online portal- https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/apply/postgraduate/research/

Funding Notes

Funded by the School of Biology, University of St Andrews. The studentship covers tuition fees (Home and Overseas) and a living allowance for a duration of 3.5 years.

References

Tilsner et al. (2014) Plant Virus Movement. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester. DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020711.pub2

Tilsner et al. (2013) Replication and trafficking of a plant virus are coupled at the entrances of plasmodesmata. J Cell Biol 201, 981-995. DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201

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