The molecular basis underlying plant-fungus mutualistic interactions
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, England
2d ago

Supervisor : Dr Almudena Ortiz-Urquiza

Secondary Supervisor : Dr Gabriel Castrillo

Research Description

In this PhD, you will identify the molecular mechanisms driving fungus-plant mutualistic interactions, hitherto poorly understood.

Endophyte fungi can support nutrient transfer, tolerance to abiotic stresses, health in crops, and reduce the reliance on unsustainable agrochemicals (i.

e., insecticides, fungicide and fertilisers). Regrettably, research on how fungal endophytes deliver nutrient transfer, growth promotion, and health in plants remains a nascent field, specifically at the genetic levels.

Through an integrative approach, encompassing comparative genomics, transcriptomics, functional genomics, and protein expression and characterisation, you will address the paucity of knowledge in this field by delving into the endophyte-plant crosstalk and the molecular basis enabling i) endophyte colonisation and ii) fungus-mediated abiotic and biotic stress tolerance.

Your PhD work will centre around the endophyte insect pathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana. This species forms mutualistic associations with plants, resulting in plant growth and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses (e.

g., pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, salt, and drought). Nevertheless, most studies reporting on such benefits for the plant are purely descriptive or show little mechanism.

Your PhD thesis will address critical knowledge gaps regarding the molecular basis behind the observed improvements in plant growth and health, mediated by B.

bassiana-plant association. Knowledge derived from this research will shed light on the mechanisms regulating fungus recruitment and fungus-plant interactions and will help tackle an important wide range of problems faced by modern agriculture (e.

g., the rise of pesticide resistance, adverse effects of agrochemicals on human health, greenhouse emissions, eutrophication and loss of biodiversity).

The candidate should have an undergraduate degree in a related subject (e.g., biology, microbiology, agriculture and crop sciences, plant sciences, environmental sciences).

A classification of 2 : 1 or higher (or equivalent) is required. A deep and demonstrable interest in molecular biology, microbiology, plants, and / or sustainable crop production is necessary.

Good analytical and writing skills and laboratory experience would be an advantage, as would a master’s degree or work experience in a relevant area.

This PhD will sit within the School of Biosciences, Division of Plant and Crop Sciences at the University of Nottingham and benefit from training and development opportunities.

Award Start Date : 01 / 10 / 2022

Duration of Award : 36 months

Terms and Conditions

This research studentship includes payment of UK tuition fees and a tax-free stipend based on BBSRC rates (£16,062 per year from October 2022)

Applicant Qualification Requirements

Undergraduate degree in Biology, Microbiology, Plant Sciences, Agriculture, Environmental Sciences or related subject (2 : 1 or higher)

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