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Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU) Schornack Group: The role of GRAS transcription factors in plant microbe interactions and development of the non-vascular plant Marchantia polymorpha (Full PhD project)


Supervisor: Sebastian Schornack (Sainsbury Lab)

Project outline:

GRAS-family transcription factors of angiosperms have been implicated in gibberellic acid signalling, signalling in arbuscular mycorrhiza symbiosis, the response to root pathogen infection, and plant development. This family is present in all land plants but largely absent in earlier diverging lineages such as green algae.

We have found that two Marchantia GRAS transcription factor genes are upregulated in their expression when the plants are infected with the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora palmivora. They are also specifically active in male antheridia.

This Ph.D. project aims to address the extent to which these two GRAS transcription factors coordinate the response to infections and organ development. To this end the candidate will use molecular biological, genetic, biochemical and cell biological approaches to dissect how GRAS promoters integrate responses to diverse cues. Furthermore, the candidate will generate plants lacking expression of these genes and study their changes in development and responses to infection. Finally, the candidate will explore to what extent related GRAS transcription factor genes from angiosperms can complement Marchantia GRAS functions and vice versa.

Together this project will shed light onto conserved and Marchantia-specific functions conferred by GRAS proteins.

This project is suitable for a highly self-motivated individual and requires solid previous practical molecular biology experience and the ability to pursue different project lines in parallel.

Opportunities for training:

Phylogenetic analysis, cloning, histology, protein complex purification, Marchantia transformation, genome editing, hairy root legume transformation, oomycete maintenance and infection.

Further reading:

  • Rey, T., Bonhomme, M., Chatterjee, A., Gavrin, A., Toulotte, J., Yang, W., André, O., Jacquet, C. and Schornack, S., 2017. The Medicago truncatula GRAS protein RAD1 supports arbuscular mycorrhiza symbiosis and Phytophthora palmivora susceptibility. Journal of experimental botany, 68(21-22), pp.5871-5881.




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