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Uncover molecular strategies developed by a beneficial microbe to reprogram host signalling networks

Principal Supervisor: Dr Patrick Schäfer - School of Life Sciences

Co-supervisor: Dr Sascha Ott - Department of Computer Sciences

PhD project title: Uncover molecular strategies developed by a beneficial microbe to reprogram host signalling networks

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

In nature, plants establish symbiosis with beneficial fungi, which enhances plant resistance against pathogens and growth in different environments. To establish such symbioses, fungal hyphae need to enter and live in plant root cells. It is this close interaction (symbiosis) of fungal hyphae in root cells that triggers all the benefits in the plant.

It is now clear that fungal hyphae secrete proteins (so called effectors) that are delivered into roots cells. Fungi have hundreds of effectors and their function is to reprogram different root signalling pathways in order to prepare root cells for hyphal colonisation. Therefore, effectors physically interact with plant proteins and specifically change their activities in respective plant signalling pathways. In addition to preparing root cells for symbiont colonisation this effector-mediated reprogramming induces the observed beneficial effects in plants.

In this project you will systematically identify plant proteins targeted by 150 effectors of the fungal symbiont Piriformospora indica and to examine their role in plant stress resistance and in plant growth in different environments. You will use the currently most efficient proteome platform to create a high resolution map of all plant protein-P. indica effector interactions. This high resolution interactome map allows you to identify plant proteins that upon their interaction with effectors participate in stress resistance and plant growth. The function of identified plant proteins in stress resistance and growth will be examined in biochemical and cell biological (e.g. confocal laser-scanning microscopy) analyses. An understanding of the molecular mechanisms of this effector-mediated growth improvement and stress resistance is of high scientific and agronomic relevance towards our aim to enhance and secure crop productivity.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Food Security

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

Supervised by internationally recognised scientists, the PhD student will apply:

  • Yeast two-hybrid
  • Tandem mass spectrometry
  • Protein immunoprecipitation
  • Live cell imaging (e.g. confocal laser-scanning microscopy)
  • In silico prediction of gene/protein functions and network modelling

Contact: Dr Patrick Schäfer, University of Warwick