Exploring communication mechanisms between fungal pathogens and plant cells

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences

Abstract

Climatic, environmental, legislative and societal changes led to the emergence of novel crop pathogens and the evolution of existing problematic species. Phytopathogenic species which cause crop plant diseases are annually responsible for the loss of ~15% of total crop yield globally and are therefore a serious threat to global food security. Particularly serious are Fusarium head blight (FHB)/head scab disease caused by cereal infecting Fusaria fungi (www.scabusa.org) and Zymoseptoria tritici infections in wheat crops (Dean (2012) Molecular Plant Pathology 13, 414-430), both will be studied in this PhD project.

The main scientific aims of this project are (A) to investigate both the cellular and molecular mechanisms required for the transition of Fusarium graminearum hyphae from apoplastic to plasmodesmatal growth (Brown (2010), Fungal Biology 114, 555-571; Brown (2017) Mol Plant Pathol 18, 1295-1312) and (B) to explore the functional role(s) of specific plasmodesmata associated wheat proteins (Faulkner (2013) PNAS, 110, 9166-9170). To achieve the project aims the student will learn how to use a range of existing tools (fungal reporter strains, wheat, rice and Arabidopsis transformants), established techniques (RNA seq analyses, light/UV/confocal microscopy, Virus Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) (Lee (2012) Plant Physiology 160, 582-590) and emerging technologies (such as genome editing). They will also be trained in the use of bespoke software to quantify and mathematically model the in vivo fungal-plant image datasets acquired from their detailed microscopy studies.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008741/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2028
2401519 Studentship BB/T008741/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Victoria Armer