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Dr Sebastian Schornack


Project Outline

Plants respond to microbial infection by mounting a transcriptional response. Much of what we know about these gene regulatory mechanisms originates from vascular plants such as Arabidopsis.

How non-vascular liverwort bryophytes coordinate a response to pathogen infection is largely unexplored.

The oomycete biotroph Phytophthora palmivora can infect the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha and form intracellular structures (Carella et al, 2018, PNAS). About 30 Marchantia transcription factors are upregulated during infection (Carella et al, 2019, Curr. Biol.).

This Ph.D. project aims to address the extent to which Marchantia transcription factors coordinate the response to oomycete infections. To this end the candidate will generate plants lacking expression of these genes and study their changes in development and responses to infection. Having identified transcription factors relevant for plant-microbe interactions, the candidate will explore to what extent related transcription factor genes from angiosperms can complement Marchantia gene functions and vice versa. Finally, the candidate will employ biochemical, cell biological and transcriptomic approaches to further characterise potential underlying molecular mechanisms.

This project will shed light onto conserved and Marchantia-specific functions conferred by pathogen responsive and evolutionarily conserved transcription factors.

The 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, oomycete maintenance and infection.


Further Reading

  • Carella, Philip, et al. "Conserved biochemical defenses underpin host responses to oomycete infection in an early-divergent land plant lineage." Current Biology 29.14 (2019): 2282-2294.

  • Carella, Philip, and Sebastian Schornack. "Manipulation of bryophyte hosts by pathogenic and symbiotic microbes." Plant and Cell Physiology 59.4 (2018): 656-665.