Investigating the molecular and cellular basis for immunity-induced growth inhibition in Arabidopsis thaliana and crop plants

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Biotic stresses on crops can result in a double blow to crop yield: the direct impact of pathogenic activity on the plant, but also, significantly, the detrimental effect of the plant's own immunity-induced growth inhibition. Understanding the cellular and molecular basis for this growth-immunity antagonism is an essential first step to overcoming it in order to increase crop yield under biotic stress. This is widely regarded as an essential goal to assist in efforts to ensure food security for the 9 billion people projected to occupy the planet by 2050, especially in light of climate change which is likely to expose crop plants to a wider variety of biotic and abiotic stresses.
The overall aim of this project is to elucidate the cellular and molecular basis of this growth-immunity antagonism in roots, including its suppression by the mutualistic fungus Piriformospora (=Serendipita) indica, specifically by identifying the molecular inhibitors of growth under biotic stress, investigating the involvement of root growth regulatory mechanisms, and translating the findings of this research from Arabidopsis thaliana into crop species. We will be utilising a range of state-of-the-art technologies and approaches, including RNAseq, bioinformatics and confocal laser scanning microscopy.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1643005 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 05/10/2015 30/09/2019 Jessica Finch
Description My PhD thesis arising from this award detailed novel findings of possible links between growth and immunity in plant roots. I discovered possible mechanisms by which the cell cycle might be involved in these links, and described the novel application of a recently described high-throughput tool (single cell RNAseq analysis) to root tips. These findings contribute to a greater understanding of plant cell cycle regulation, and should contribute to crop improvement efforts.
Exploitation Route The findings of this PhD will be taken forward by a post-doctoral researcher and potentially future PhD students to further develop the outcomes, and ultimately may inform plant breeding efforts to increase growth and yield under immune stress.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description Vegetable Research Trust travel grant
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 06/2017