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Uncovering new signalling nodes in the interaction between wheat and the fungal pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola (Septoria tritici)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof A Sadanandom
    Prof A Gatehouse
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Mycosphaerella graminicola is an economically important fungal pathogen of wheat leaves and the causal agent of Septoria tritici blotch disease (STB). Loss of the UK wheat yield by Septoria is estimated between 10-30%, equating to an economic loss of £200-£600m/y. Despite the importance of STB, there is very little information available on the defence mechanisms or immune responses that allow wheat to counter Septoria infection. This is a collaborative PhD project between industry (Limagrain UK Ltd) and academic partners based at Durham University will aim to uncover fundamentally new knowledge about the regulation of molecular mechanisms of fungal defence in wheat. Our research group utilises cutting edge “omics” technologies like, Next Generation Sequencing, computational biology and molecular genetics the project to generate new knowledge that will underpin the development of modern wheat varieties with increased defence against STB. You will be analysing these data types (as well as those publicly available) using data science techniques. You will be trained in computer coding, molecular genetics and bioimaging, with a view to discover desirable traits in wheat. You will be embedded within a highly active and collaborative research environment, with potential for involvement with, and travel to, major international research programmes aimed at improving wheat. You will gain training experience in both academic and industrial settings, which will aid your career development.


Applications should be made by emailing [Email Address Removed] with a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees), and a covering letter – including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (Word document) to [Email Address Removed]. A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]

The closing date for applications is Monday 27th May at 12noon.

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC CASE studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 for 2019-20). The PhD will start in October 2020. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. Please note, there are 2 stages to the application process.


1. SUMO conjugation to the pattern recognition receptor FLS2 is required to trigger intracellular signalling in plant innate immunity. Nature Communications. 2018, 9(1): 5185

2. SUMO Suppresses the Activity of the Jasmonic Acid Receptor CORONATINE INSENSITIVE 1. Plant Cell. 2018 Aug 16. pii: tpc.00036.2018. doi: 10.1105/tpc.18.00036

3. Functional analysis of a Wheat Homeodomain protein, TaR1, reveals that host chromatin remodelling influences the dynamics of the switch to necrotrophic growth in the phytopathogenic fungus Zymoseptoria tritici. New Phytologist. 2015 Apr;206(2):598-605. doi: 10.1111/nph.13323

4. The ubiquitin conjugating enzyme, TaU4 regulates wheat defence against the phytopathogen Zymoseptoria tritici.Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 19;6:35683. doi: 10.1038/srep35683

5. Post-translational modifications in priming the plant immune system: ripe for exploitation? FEBS Lett. 2018 Jun;592(12):1929-1936. doi: 10.1002/1873 3468.13076

6. Fifty shades of SUMO: its role in immunity and at the fulcrum of the growth-defence balance. Molecular Plant Pathology. 2018 Jun;19(6):1537-1544. doi: 10.1111/mpp.12625.

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