Projects

We are currently advertising DTP and CASE studentships for October 2019 start. The deadline for applications is the 26th November 2018.

26 / 09 / 2018

Unlocking the resistance gene machine of wild wheats (WULFF_J19DTP)

how to apply

Crops have always been associated with disease epidemics. Roman farmers sacrificed animals to pacify the rust god, Robigus, to save their crops from devastation. More recently, the Irish potato famine (1845-49) caused by late blight had devastating effects on the population of Ireland, and two years ago wheat blast emerged in Bangladesh, threatening wheat crops in south and southeast Asia. Farmers and scholars have long noted that whilst cultivated crops are often hit by epidemics, natural ecosystems remain relatively stable, with wild populations displaying only low disease levels. Evidence suggest that wild populations avoid epidemics by presenting a genetically heterogenous population to the pathogen, but this heterogeneity has been eroded in cultivated populations. But, what are the molecular features of this heterogeneity that provide such stability? You will address this question by using a new enabling technology which combines high-throughput sequencing with association genetics to identify species-wide functional variation governing disease resistance in wild wheat populations*. The overarching hypothesis is that at the population level resistance will be controlled by a complex distribution of genes, including intracellular immune receptors, with diverse pathogen recognition specificities. Our long-term aim is to use our understanding of natural variation to design and engineer more resilient cropping systems.

 The project will be jointly supervised by Brande Wulff (John Innes Centre) and Jonathan Jones (The Sainsbury Lab) on the Norwich Research Park.

 *Arora et al (2018). Resistance gene discovery and cloning by sequence capture and association genetics. BioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/248146