Gene editing and molecular breeding for fungal disease resistance in lettuce

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Biology


This studentship offers an innovative opportunity to combine state-of-the-art molecular skills (footprint-free gene editing, RNA sequencing, genomics) with genetics, plant pathology, crop, model plant, lab and field work. You will be well integrated into A L Tozer Ltd. breeding teams as well as the White Rose BBSRC Mechanistic Biology Doctoral Training Partnership.

Lettuce is the most valuable fresh vegetable crop in the UK, with a home production value of £154 million and export value of £13 million. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, a fungal pathogen, causes substantial losses on field-grown and protected lettuce crops and crucially, strikes late in the growing season after the significant cost of inputs required for production. Chemical control is problematic with restrictions on spraying and fungicides being medium-high risk for development of pathogen resistance. Development of crop disease resistance is a more sustainable solution to prevent waste. This project builds on a successful collaboration between Prof. Denby and A L Tozer Ltd combining systems biology and quantitative genetics to identify sources of disease resistance for incorporation into elite lettuce varieties to enhance the sustainability of production.

The project will involve working with Tozer to:
Identify genes underlying QTL conferring disease resistance (disease assays, molecular markers and genetic crosses)
Test candidate genes for their ability to enhance disease resistance against S. sclerotiorum by overexpression in Arabidopsis
Use footprint-free gene editing to test the role of candidate genes in disease resistance in lettuce
Elucidate how key regulators of the lettuce defence response function
Develop a mapping population from an elite breeding line with field resistance against S. sclerotiorum and Iceberg cultivar for genotyping and phenotyping.

The Denby group contains experienced postdoctoral scientists working on leafy vegetables, disease resistance and transcriptional regulation, as well as computational expertise. CNAP provides a supportive environment of plant scientists combining fundamental and applied research.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011151/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2023
2279564 Studentship BB/M011151/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2023 Harry Pink