University of Dundee

EASTBIO: Boosting the signal –defining the signal amplification complex during plant perception of the environment

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership This opportunity is open to UK and EU nationals.

Applicants should apply by completing the EASTBIO application form (downloadable from the EASTBIO website) and e-mail to Candidates should also include their academic transcripts and ensure that they ask their referees to send completed references to Applicants may wish to explain their motivation for joining the EASTBIO training programme.

Plants are exposed to a constantly changing environment and must be able to adapt their physiology and development in response. Plants use integral membrane receptor-like kinases to constantly monitor the environment for pathogens and perceive hormones such as brassinosteroids and auxin that drive developmental adaptation. Receptor-like kinases are the largest family of proteins in plants and understanding how they function is key to understanding how plants detect and respond to a changingenvironment. This in turn can inform how we may be able to manipulate these processes to improve pathogen resistance, increase yields or enable plants to grow in adverse conditions.Upon perception of specific cues each receptor-like kinase initiate a series of signalling events to produce a fine tuned response. As part of this signalling process we have found that the signal from an activated receptor is amplified and this requires a fatty acid based post-translational modification called S-acylation. This amplification is key to delivering an effective response to the stimulus. S-acylation is known to alter how proteins cluster in membranes; we therefore propose that S-acylation acts to recruit a specific “amplification complex” to boost signalling.

The aim of this project is to identify the proteins that make up the amplification complex in plants, specifically during pathogen or hormone perception. You will use a newly developed proximity labelling strategy to identify the components of the receptor-like kinase signal amplification complex by proteomics. You will then use biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and cell biology methods to characterise identified components and determine how they act to activate and/or amplify signalling from receptors.Skills to be acquired include: Proteomics, in planta protein expression, S-acylation assays, protein biochemistry, molecular biology, confocal microscopy, plant transformation and genetics, plant physiology and pathogen assays.The University of Dundee is currently #1 for Life Sciences research in the UK. The Division of Plant Sciences is located at the Scottish Govt. James Hutton agricultural research institute. This provides expertise and links to world class crop and applied plant sciences and enables us to deliver solutions to global issues such as food/nutritional security, climate change, biofuels and water security. The University of Dundee is ranked 4thin the UK for student experience and satisfaction.

General pathogen perceiving receptor-like kinase review: Boutrot and Zipfel (2017) Annu Rev Phytopathol. 55:257-286. doi: 10.1146/annurev-phyto-080614-120106

General Brassinosteroid signalling review: Planas-Riverola (2019) Development. 146(5): dev151894. doi: 10.1242/dev.151894

General review of S-acylation in plants: Turnbull and Hemsley (2017) Curr Opin Plant Biol. 40:63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2017.07.007.