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Understanding Host Compatibility in the Marchantia-Phytophthora System (CARELLA_J22DTP)

   Graduate Programme

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  Dr Philip Carella  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The fossil record demonstrates that filamentous microbes invaded ancient plant cells with intracellular hyphal structures over 450 million years ago. To this day, a rich diversity of extant land plant taxa continue to be colonized by detrimental and beneficial microbes, yet much of our knowledge has focused on the evolutionarily young angiosperm lineage of flowering plants. To better understand how distantly-related land plants defend themselves against pathogen infection, our group investigates the molecular genetic mechanisms controlling disease resistance in the model liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. In particular, we focus on interactions with fungus-like filamentous oomycete phytopathogens belonging to the genus Phytophthora, which provide a unique platform to compare host responses to infection across distantly-related land plant lineages.

The goal of this project is to explore the delicate balance between disease resistance and susceptibility to filamentous pahogens in M. polymorpha. Using comparative macroevolutionary analyses, molecular genetics, and multi-omics approaches, the candidate will investigate widely-conserved and lineage-specific aspects of liverwort immunity in addition to the virulence mechanisms employed by broad host Phytophthora species to promote infection across distantly related host plants. This multidisciplinary project is based in the laboratory of Dr. Phil Carella, located in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the John Innes Centre. It provides an exciting opportunity to explore disease resistance in the emerging model liverwort M. polymorpha and to develop skills across plant pathology, land plant evolution, microbial virulence, and bioinformatics. Applications are welcomed from students across the biological sciences that are interested in the evolution of plant-pathogen interactions.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD 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 placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement 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.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP programme. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 25th January, Wednesday 26th January and Thursday 27th January 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply: https://biodtp.norwichresearchpark.ac.uk/

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2021/2 stipend rate: £15,609), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a.


Carella, P., Gogleva, A., Hoey, D.J., Bridgen, A.J., Stolze, S.C., Nakagami, H., and Schornack, S. (2019) Conserved biochemical defenses underpin host responses to oomycete infection in an early divergent land plant lineage. Current Biology, 29: P2282-2294E5. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.078
Carella, P., Gogleva, A., Tomaselli, M., Alfs, C., and Schornack, S. (2018) Phytophthora palmivora establishes tissue-specific intracellular infection structures in the earliest divergent land plant lineage. PNAS, 115: E3846-E3855. doi: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1717900115
Carella, P., Evangelisti, E., and Schornack, S. (2018) Sticking to it: Phytopathogen effector molecules may converge on evolutionarily conserved host targets in green plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 44: 175-80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2018.04.019
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