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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

Funding Notes

This studentship is fully funded for four years and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 estimated for 2020 entry), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.


Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

Related Subjects

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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