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Unlocking intercellular channels from cell wall biology to biophysics

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Y Benitez-Alfonso
    Prof J P Knox
  • 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

Plant cells are attached together by rigid cell walls that underpin the mechanical properties of plants/fruits/vegetables. Microscopic channels named plasmodesmata cross cell walls to maintain links between the interiors of plant cells. These channels provide a route for the communication of signals and other factors that control plant growth and development. The cell wall plays a key role in regulating channel aperture but little is known about the mechanisms underlying this process. Cell wall components (such as the polysaccharide callose) are differentially distributed around the channels and it is believed that the structure/accumulation of this and possibly other cell wall polysaccharides determine plasmodesmata form and function.
This project will investigate the features that distinguish cell walls at plasmodesmata from other regions of cell walls and identify the function of specific cell wall components in regulating the transport capacity and mechanical properties of plasmodesmata.
Results from this research will contribute to the understanding of plant mechanisms for the control of intercellular communication and signalling and highlight new targets that, in the long term, can be used to manipulate the transport of plant factors to modify crop development. Another aspect of the project will identify interactions between cell wall components that can be further explored to support the generation of useful biomaterials.

Funding Notes

4 year BBSRC studentship, under the White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP. The successful applicant will receive fees and stipend (c.£14,057). The PhD will start in Oct 2016. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. There are 2 stages to the application process: http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/postgraduate/phdopportunities.php


1. Gaudioso-Pedraza R, Benitez-Alfonso Y*. (2014) A phylogenetic approach to study the origin and evolution of plasmodesmata-localized glycosyl hydrolases family 17. Frontiers Plant Sci. 23 (5):212.
2. Maule A, Gaudioso-Pedraza R, Benitez-Alfonso Y*. (2013) Callose deposition and symplastic connectivity are regulated prior to lateral root emergence. Commun Integr Biol. 6(6):e26531.
3. Benitez-Alfonso Y*, Faulkner C, Pendle A., Miyashima S., Helariutta Y., Maule A. (2013) Symplastic intercellular connectivity regulates lateral root patterning. Dev. Cell. 26(2):136-47.
4. Cornuault V, Manfield IW, Ralet M-C, Knox JP (2014) Epitope Detection Chromatography (EDC): a method to dissect the structural heterogeneity and interconnections of plant cell wall matrix glycans. Plant Journal 78, 715-722

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

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