Synchronizing biological clocks in bacteria and plants


Living organisms can tell the time. This is because they have circadian clocks. Circadian clocks coordinate the metabolism and development of organisms with 24 h cycles in the environment, which increases their fitness. Circadian rhythms are found across life, but the nature of circadian rhythms in non-photosynthetic bacteria remains poorly understood.

This is a major knowledge gap, because bacteria are key players in health and disease, biotechnology, ecology and agriculture. This PhD is a very exciting opportunity to conduct pioneering research into circadian rhythms in non-photosynthetic bacteria. In this project, you will focus on the role of circadian rhythms in a non-photosynthetic rhizosphere bacterium, Pseudomonas fluorescens. P. fluorescens has important roles in plant health and disease suppression.
You will investigate the characteristics and mechanisms of its circadian rhythms, and how they affect its interactions with Arabidopsis plants. Arabidopsis provides an incredibly powerful system for the study of circadian rhythms.

The project is likely to generate new insights that are of relevance to all of biology.  The project will provide training in molecular biology, chronobiology, microbiology and plant biology. Furthermore, it benefits from joint supervision by a chronobiologist (Antony Dodd, John Innes Centre) and a microbiologist (Jacob Malone, John Innes Centre). Therefore, it will provide a broad set of theoretical and practical training, whilst allowing you to obtain cutting edge insights into plant-microbe interactions.


Paajanen P, Dantas LLB, Dodd AN (2021). Layers of crosstalk between circadian regulation and environmental signalling in plants. Current Biology 31, 399-413.
Eelderink-Chen Z, Bosman J, Sartor F, Dodd AN, Kovacs AT, Merrow M (2021). A circadian clock in a nonphotosynthetic prokaryote. Science Advances 7, article eabe2086.

Sartor F, Eelderink-Chen Z, Aronson B, Bosman J, Hibbert LE, Dodd AN, Kovacs AT, Merrow M (2019). Are there circadian clocks in non-photosynthetic bacteria? Biology 8, article 41.

Mauchline T, Malone JG (2017). Life in earth – the root microbiome to the rescue? Current Opinion in Microbiology 37, 23-28.