Co-evolution of virulence and recognition in rice blast disease

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office

Abstract

Plant diseases are a continuous threat to food production and a major constraint on achieving food security. Receptors of the plant immune system are critical agents in the fight against infection. One set of plant immunoreceptors detect the presence of host-translocated pathogen effector proteins and trigger defence responses. One approach to try and solve the problem of plant diseases is to understand the molecular basis of interactions between plant immunoreceptors and the effectors they have evolved to detect. This allows engineering of these interactions to improve disease resistance. Further, understanding how effectors function in the plant cell, how they promote pathogen growth and disease progression, is fundamentally interesting but also offers opportunity to interfere with disease processes.

This project will focus on a family of effector proteins from the most devastating pathogen of rice, the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. The student will apply biochemical, biophysical, structural and in planta approaches to probe direct physical interactions ("handshakes") between different proteins that help promote disease and trigger resistance respectively. They will test the effects of varying the interfaces of these proteins in vitro and, working with collaborators in Japan, can have their predictions from in vitro experiments tested in vivo.

Publications

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Varden FA (2017) Taking the stage: effectors in the spotlight. in Current opinion in plant biology

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1654182 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Josephine Maidment
 
Description Biochemical Society Travel Grant
Amount £600 (GBP)
Organisation Biochemical Society 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 08/2018
 
Description British Society of Plant Pathology Travel Fund
Amount £600 (GBP)
Organisation The British Society of Plant Pathology 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Unknown
Start 07/2018 
End 08/2018
 
Description Participated in "Meet the STEM professionals" session as part of the Women of the Future Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Participated in "Meet the STEM professionals" session as part of the Women of the Future Conference, spoke to year 10 girls (and the undergraduate students chaperoning them) about my research, careers in STEM and doing a PhD. Feedback from the girls and teachers for the overall event was very positive, with girls commenting they felt more aware of STEM careers and options available to them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Protein Crystallography Stall 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Designed and delivered activities relating to protein crystallography to the general public. The stall was first run as part of an Institute Open Day, attended by over 3000 members of the general public, and then was taken to the Norwich Science Festival as part of the Learning Week programme. Pupils from local schools attended the Learning Week and engaged with our stall.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description School Visit (Taverham Junior School) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Gave a talk to approximately 100 year 6 pupils about my research and having a career in science. The pupils seemed engaged and asked excellent questions for their age at the end of the talk. Feedback from the teachers was positive, and the school have approached the John Innes Centre for a speaker again this year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018