PhD Studentship: Elucidating the effector-delivery system of aphids

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Start Date:  1st October 2017

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Prof. Saskia Hogenhout

Project description:

The green peach aphid (GPA), Myzus persicae, and other insects produce virulence proteins (effectors) in their saliva that interact with plant proteins (targets) to modulate key plant processes, such as plant defense responses, that make the plants more susceptible to aphid colonization. Work in the Hogenhout lab has focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which effector proteins act on host plants. This project aims to understand the mechanism by which aphids regulate the delivery of effector proteins into the plant.

Recent work in the lab has shown that aphid effector proteins interact with each other, and with components of the aphid chitin exoskeleton in a complex network. This project will build on this work, and test the hypothesis that the interactions of the effectors and the exoskeleton, coupled with transcriptional regulation, controls the release of effector proteins into the host plant.

The student will,

  • Test protein-protein interactions of aphid effectors to define the interaction network, and test their function by RNAi-mediated gene silencing in aphids.
  • Investigate the localization of the effector proteins in aphids stylets and plant tissues using immunogold labeling and fluorescent tags combined with transmission electron and confocal microscopy.
  • Examine if the aphid exoskeleton plays a role in the delivery of effector proteins by silencing the expression of exoskeleton components.

If successful, the project will uncover a fundamental aspect of plant-insect interactions, which will be valuable in the search for novel methods of insect pest control in crop plants.

The student will learn a broad range of techniques and contribute presentations in departmental seminar series and at (inter)national conferences.

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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