Feed the world: engineering disease resistance in rice. (BANFIELD_J17DTP)

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


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 disease. Plant NOD-like receptors (NLRs) survey the intracellular environment for signatures of non-self, typically the presence and/or activity of translocated pathogen effector proteins, and trigger a response. One approach to addressing yield loss in crops due to plant diseases is to understand the molecular basis of interactions between NLRs and the effectors they have evolved to detect. This may allow engineering of these interactions to improve disease resistance in the field.
This project will focus on two NLRs from rice that use a similar protein domain, integrated into the NLRs, to recognise different effectors from the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. M. oryzae is the most devastating disease of rice, estimated to destroy enough rice to feed >212 million people annually. The student will apply biochemical/biophysical/structural and in planta approaches to direct probe physical interactions between the different proteins that trigger resistance. 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. The student will have the opportunity to travel to Japan to be involved in some of these experiments.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1937637 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Rafal Zdrzalek
Description Hiromasa Saitoh 
Organisation Tokyo University of Agriculture
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Characterization of provided proteins.
Collaborator Contribution Initial discovery of proteins.
Impact To early to assess the impact.
Start Year 2017
Description Karine Montet de Guillen 
Organisation University of Montpellier
Department Centre for Structural Biochemistry
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Expression and purification of the protein for structural and biochemical charaterization.
Collaborator Contribution NMR studies of provided protein.
Impact Too early to assess outcomes.
Start Year 2020
Description Ryohei Terauchi 
Organisation Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Functional and structural characterization of provided proteins.
Collaborator Contribution Initial identification of proteins. Potential transformation of rice plants.
Impact Too early to assess outcomes.
Start Year 2018
Description The Sainsbury Laboratory 
Organisation John Innes Centre
Department The Sainsbury Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Protein expression, purification and biochemical characterization of 2 interacting proteins.
Collaborator Contribution Identification of aforementioned protein and initial discovery of potential interaction, including studies in planta.
Impact No outcomes available yet.
Start Year 2019
Description School visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Student gave a talk in a high school about his project and life of a PhD student, as well as about being a researcher itself The talk was attended by nearly 100 pupils and sparked a discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018