New regulatory mechanisms in the plant-pathogen arms race

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

Abstract

Summary: Plants are sessile and must respond to any threat in-situ. To protect themselves plants have evolved a broad array of proteins to detect pathogens and initiate defence responses. In response pathogens have evolved a broad range of molecules termed effectors to manipulate and subvert the plant immune system. In turn plants have evolved mechanisms to detect pathogen effectors. This evolutionary arms race has led to the observed resistance or susceptibility of plants to pathogens depending on which has the upper hand. Understanding how pathogens manipulate plant immune systems, how plants detect this manipulation to trigger immunity and how we can transfer these mechanisms into pathogen-susceptible crop plants to provide immunity is one of the main aims of plant biology. This project will investigate an entirely new mechanism regulating plant resistance to pathogens, namely reversible palmitoylation.

Understanding how plants detect and defend against pathogens is of paramount importance for providing food security. Plants perceive and respond to pathogen threats through extracellular and intracellular receptors. We recently discovered that both intracellular and extracellular receptors for pathogens are palmitoylated. Palmitoylation is a reversible lipid based post-translational modification of proteins that can act to regulate protein function in a similar manner to phosphorylation. Palmitoylation can also cause changes in membrane association and subcellular localisation. We do not know however how changes in palmitoylation are regulated. This project will focus on defining and understanding how the palmitoylation state of plant pathogen receptors and other proteins is regulated. The information from this work on regulatory mechanisms will therefore be broadly applicable and able to inform the development of durable disease resistance strategies in all crops.

The University Of Dundee's College Of Life Sciences (CLS) is one of the highest performing bioscience institutions in the world. The Division of Plant Sciences forms part of CLS and is located at the James Hutton Plant Science Research Institute (JHI) in Dundee where you will join a vibrant community of more than 80 molecular plant pathologists, cell biologists, epidemiologists, biochemists and computational biologists working on issues of global food security as part of the collaborative Dundee Effector Consortium. The project will develop personal expertise in plant pathology, molecular biology, cell biology, cellular biochemistry and live cell imaging. These skills will be transferrable across scientific disciplines and the biotech industry as well as providing a platform and knowledge base suited to careers in policy making and all forms of scientific communication. Written and oral presentation skills, data analysis and critical thinking will form key components of the non-scientific transferrable skills training directly provided by this project.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1643676 Studentship BB/M010996/1 01/09/2015 31/08/2019 Maiju Laurila