Deconstructing the immunity/growth crosstalk observed in plants

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


Given that the global population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, understanding the ways in which crop growth is affected by immune response is of paramount interest to plant biologists. The endophytic fungus Serendipita indica colonises a multitude of plant species across the plant kingdom, and through the secretion of effector proteins confers beneficial properties onto the host. Using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, this project aims to define the molecular interactions between S. indica and it's host, with a particular focus on its role as a growth/immunity modulator.
Partnering cutting edge RNAsequencing and proteomics technologies with high throughput protoplast screening and confocal laser scanning microscopy, my project aims to map the interaction network between these two organisms (S. indica, Arabidopsis) in order to identify effector targets which might improve plant growth and stress resistance.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1643133 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 05/10/2015 30/09/2019 Rory Osborne
Description This project is based on the identification and classification of effectors, small secreted proteins which a microbe uses to establish and maintain a suitable environment in its host organism. We work with the micchorizal fungus Serendipita indica, which colonises plant roots and in doing so confers beneficial effects to them. These effects include drought and heat tolerance, improved final yield, and tolerance to other, less friendly microbes called pathogens. Since starting this award many of these effectors have been expressed in plants to identify their localisation in a cell, several of which target the nucleus - the action centre of all cells. These nuclear targeting proteins have been shown to interact with important host transcription factors - plant proteins that regulate how the plant responds to the outside world.

Several of these interactions have been confirmed in planta. A global network analysis of effector-target proteins has identified several hormone pathways as enriched in S indica effector target proteins. In view of this we expressed these proteins in whole plants to see if these insertion lines would show any kind of sensitivity phenotypes to these hormone pathways. Indeed in a high throughput screening process we have shown that several lines exhibit a phenotype. These lines are subsequently being analysed for variation in transcriptional activity of several markers associated with these phythormone pathways.
Exploitation Route Several of the effector proteins we work with have very interesting biological characteristics which have been identified through my work. As such understanding their specific biochemistry will provide an opportunity for new projects which are more focused on a selection of effector proteins, as opposed to my project which is based on the secretome (all proteins secreted by Serendipita indica).

I have laid down significant work for many future projects in the field of mutualist effector protein study. Beyond phenotyping and classification, single effector proteins could be used to explore in a more direct way how we could improve beneficial host signalling to ensure plants grow better generally and under stress to produce more food.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink