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Transcriptional battles in plant-pathogen interactions: understanding and re-wiring gene regulatory networks to enhance disease resistance

Project Description

The severity of plant disease is determined by a battle between pathogen virulence and host plant immunity – understanding this relationship is key to developing sustainable methods of pathogen control. We study the economically important fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea which infects a broad range of fruit and vegetable crops, as well as the model plant Arabidopsis. This is an exciting time to be investigating plant infection by B. cinerea given the recent discovery that the complex molecular interactions between pathogen and host include reciprocal manipulation of gene expression via small RNA (sRNAs). Plant sRNAs are excreted in vesicles, taken up by the pathogen and silence pathogen genes. At the same time, B. cinerea produces sRNAs that are transferred to Arabidopsis and silence plant genes. We have identified a number of positive regulators of Arabidopsis defence which are downregulated by B. cinerea. In this studentship we will investigate how these key defence genes are being suppressed by the pathogen, the regulation of virulence in B. cinerea and look to overcome pathogen manipulation by re-wiring Arabidopsis defence networks. The project will involve molecular biology of both plant and pathogen, transgenic Arabidopsis lines, disease resistance assays, genetics/genomics, transcriptomics, sRNA analysis, network biology and bioinformatics.

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded project. Applicants need to have adequate funds to meet the costs of a self-funded research project including tuition fees and living expenses for the duration of the research programme. Please see information on tuition fee costs, living expenses and funding opportunities.


Applications are welcome for a 3-year PhD.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

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

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