The role of Rho GTPases in plant immunity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences


This project utilises parallels with mammalian cell biology to better understand plant immunity. Discovering how plants respond to microbial pathogens is of vital importance as 90% of all calorie intake worldwide comes directly from crop plants. During infection, plant cells locate their immune defences to the site of infection with the aim of repelling the invader. In our recent paper ( we demonstrated that the protein FORMIN4 links the plant cytoskeleton to this immune response. This raises several questions such as: How does the plant cell 'flag' the site of microbial contact as being a special location to deliver cargo like FORMIN4? What are the specific molecules involved? Can we use paradigms from mammal and yeast FORMINs to help solve these questions and will this give us new fundamental insights into the evolution of eukaryotes as a whole?

This project will address these questions by exploring the role of Rho GTPases in plant immunity. Members of this protein family in animals and yeast recruit and activate FORMINs. In plants, Rho GTPases play complex roles in cell growth and development but their relationship to plant FORMINs is mysterious. The student will combine advanced live-cell light microscopy with molecular biology and plant pathology. Furthermore they will learn the multidisciplinary skills needed to quantify data from images and use mathematical modelling to design experiments. The supervisory team and their research teams are dedicated to integrating 'traditional' wet-lab approaches typical of bioscience research laboratories with hypothesis testing guided by bioinformatics and mathematical modelling. This project is co-supervised by Prof. Harry Mellor at the University of Bristol who is an expert in mammalian FORMINs, Rho GTPases and polarised secretion.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008741/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2028
2401588 Studentship BB/T008741/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Amber Jane Connerton