PhD Studentship - Feed the world: engineering disease resistance in rice

University of East Anglia - Biological Sciences

Start Date: 1st October 2017
No. of positions available: 1
Supervisor: Prof. Mark Banfield

Project description: Plant diseases are a continuous threat to food production and a major constraint on achieving food security. Receptors of the plant immune system are critical agents in the fight against disease. Plant NOD-like receptors (NLRs) survey the intracellular environment for signatures of non-self, typically the presence and/or activity of translocated pathogen effector proteins, and trigger a response. One approach to addressing yield loss in crops due to plant diseases is to understand the molecular basis of interactions between NLRs and the effectors they have evolved to detect. This may allow engineering of these interactions to improve disease resistance in the field.

This project will focus on two NLRs from rice that use a similar protein domain, integrated into the NLRs, to recognise different effectors from the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. M. oryzae is the most devastating disease of rice, estimated to destroy enough rice to feed >212 million people annually. The student will apply biochemical/biophysical/structural and in planta approaches to direct probe physical interactions between the different proteins that trigger resistance. They will test the effects of varying the interfaces of these proteins in vitro and, working with collaborators in Japan, can have their predictions from in vitro experiments tested in vivo. The student will have the opportunity to travel to Japan to be involved in some of these experiments.

The student will receive expert training in diverse disciplines on a strategically relevant topic, within a stimulating research environment. They will join a team of researchers with shared interests and have access to world-class facilities. Further, it is expected they will attend national and international conferences to present their research.

Person specification: Minimum entry 2:1

Funding notes:

Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,296pa – 2016/7), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

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South East England