University of Dundee

EASTBIO: How does PcNMRAL1 orchestrate infection-associated gene expression changes during host colonisation?

Eukaryote pathogens such as Phytophthora capsici cause significant disease on a wide range of plants. If we aspire to prevent losses incited by Eukaryote pathogens, we must elucidate the mechanisms that enable disease. We have uncovered compelling new evidence demonstrating that a conserved transcriptional regulator in P. capsici, PcNMRAL1, helps regulate the expression of pathogen-encoded gene complements in a stage-specific manner. We hypothesise that PcNMRAL1 is a regulator that helps orchestrate changes in gene expression that lead to the transition from the biotrophic to the necrotrophic infection stage. To test this hypothesis, we will disrupt PcNmraL1 and assess the impact on pathogen virulence, the disease cycle and the expression of PcNMRAL1 responsive genes. We will then identify cellular signalling proteins and the transcriptional regulators that interact with PcNMRAL1 and help regulate gene expression. Finally, we will use existing gene expression data to identify PcNMRAL1 responsive elements and that will then be deployed in CasID experiments to pinpoint the molecular events that lead to gene regulation. By answering fundamental questions pertaining gene regulation in hemi-biotrophs and its impact upon virulence, we will open up new avenues by which stage-specific metabolic cues can be identified and exploited through novel chemical control strategies. The student will be giving the opportunity to, within the framework of the project, develop and apply their own ideas and give direction to their research. We will allow a high degree of flexibility with regards the direction of the research in that approaches can be adapted, and follow-up experiments can be focused into very specific directions once initial data is generated.

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