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TurboID-charging discovery of plant pathogen virulence and host defense mechanisms (JONESS20DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, November 25, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Plant pathogens cause disease and reduce crop yields, secreting "effector" proteins that target host
proteins and suppress immunity. Understanding effector function and host targets could help develop resistant crops. This project involves an exciting new approach to understanding effector functions.

Proximity labeling (PL) accelerates discovery of proteins that interact with a protein of interest, that is fused to a biotin ligase that attaches biotin to nearby proteins. Biotinylated proteins trapped by
streptavidin-coupled beads are identified by mass spectrometry (MS). Branon et al. (2018) created an active biotin ligase TurboID for PL-MS. The student will work closely with 2 postdocs and our proteomics team to exploit this advance.

Objective1) Effector target discovery using bacterial effectors AvrRps4 and PopP2 that target WRKY transcription factors. AvrRps4 and PopP2 target WRKY transcription factor proteins involved in defence. In the RPS4/RRS1 immune receptor complex, RRS1 carries a WRKY domain that helps detect AvrRps4 and PopP2. These effectors will be fused to TurboID and expressed in Arabidopsis to define interacting proteins.

Objective2) Identifying targets of filamentous pathogen effectors The oomycete Albugo candida causes white rust in Arabidopsis and suppresses immunity. To understand how Albugo makes hosts susceptible, the student will express in Arabidopsis, defense-suppressing Albugo effectors tagged with TurboID and identify and characterize host protein targets.

Objective 3) Identifying effectors that interact with host targets during infection Host "hub proteins", such as the transcription factor TCP14, are targets of pathogen effectors. The student will create TCP14-TurboID lines, infect with diverse pathogens, and use the sensitivity of TurboID to reveal pathogen effector proteins delivered during infection that interact with TCP14.

The student will learn skills in proteomics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, GoldenGate cloning and plant pathology. Applicants should have a strong interest in plant/microbe interactions and cutting-edge biochemical methods.

Branon et al

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second-class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

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