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Chromatin remodelling and its conserved role in plant immunity

Principal Supervisor: Dr Vardis Ntoukakis - SLS

Co-supervisor: Moussa Benhamed, Institute of Plant Sciences Paris Saclay

PhD project title: Chromatin remodelling and its conserved role in plant immunity

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

A major common part of plant immune responses is the reprogramming of gene expression. Activation of receptors significantly alters the expression of the plant genome, enabling cellular defence responses to be activated. However, activation of immunity comes with a severe developmental trade-off assumed to be necessary in order to prioritize defence over growth-related cellular functions.

Chromatin remodelling is a major regulator of transcription that plays a crucial role in plant growth, and immunity. We have identified a Chromatin-Remodelling Enzyme (CRE1) altering plant homeostasis in a manner that simultaneously increases immunity and growth – pathways that typically act antagonistically. The Arabidopsis mutant of this enzyme (cre1) has enhanced leaf area, increased root length and is more resistant to pathogens. Most importantly, under stress condition the cre1 has bigger leaf area and produces more seeds than the wild type plants. The aim of this project is to exploit the high level of conservation of these enzymes across plant lineages in an effort to engineer high performing tomato, potato and maize plants with increased resistance to pathogens, yet minimal impact upon growth. Two main lines of research are considered; gene editing of CRE1 using CRISPR technology and developing chemical inhibitors of the enzyme for foliar applications. .

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Food Security

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project.

ChIP-seq and transcriptomic analysis of immune responses, proteomic analysis of histone acetyltransferases interacting proteins and gene editing by CRISPR/Cas9.

Contact: Dr Vardis Ntoukakis, University of Warwick