A helping hand: signal transduction in plant immunity


Plant diseases are a continuous threat to food production and a major constraint on achieving global food security. One approach to restricting plant diseases is to understand how plant immune receptors recognise the presence of pathogens and transduce signals that lead to disease resistance. It is these plant immune receptors that breeders have used for decades to help deliver healthy crops.

In this project, we will address how intracellular plant immune receptors (NLRs) from rice function together to promote immunity. Previous work has shown the molecular basis of how these proteins recognise the signatures of pathogen infection, but we understand very little about how this recognition is transduced into a signal. This project will investigate the changes that occur within immune receptors on pathogen recognition, including the potential for conformational change and changes in oligomerisation. It will also investigate the hypothesis that conformational change promotes interactions with other cellular components leading to signalling. Each of these outcomes will be probed by mutagenesis to define their impact on function.

Through understanding these activities, there will also be opportunities for engineering immune receptor function to perform better in resisting disease, which maybe applicable to multiple crops (rice, wheat, barley etc). The studentship will involve techniques including molecular biology, biochemistry, confocal microscopy, proteomics, and structural biology (Xray-crystallography and cryo-EM). There will also be the opportunity to work with national and international collaborators.

The student will receive expert training in diverse disciplines on a strategically relevant topic, within a stimulating research environment. They will join a team of researchers with shared interests and have access to world-class facilities. Further, it is expected they will attend national and international conferences to present their research.