Understanding Host Compatibility in the Marchantia-Phytophthora System


The fossil record demonstrates that filamentous microbes invaded ancient plant cells with intracellular hyphal structures over 450 million years ago. To this day, a rich diversity of extant land plant taxa continue to be colonized by detrimental and beneficial microbes, yet much of our knowledge has focused on the evolutionarily young angiosperm lineage of flowering plants.

To better understand how distantly-related land plants defend themselves against pathogen infection, our group investigates the molecular genetic mechanisms controlling disease resistance in the model liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. In particular, we focus on interactions with fungus-like filamentous oomycete phytopathogens belonging to the genus Phytophthora, which provide a unique platform to compare host responses to infection across distantly-related land plant lineages.

The goal of this project is to explore the delicate balance between disease resistance and susceptibility to filamentous pathogens in M. polymorpha.
Using comparative macroevolutionary analyses, molecular genetics, and multi-omics approaches, the candidate will investigate widely-conserved and lineage-specific aspects of liverwort immunity in addition to the virulence mechanisms employed by broad host Phytophthora species to promote infection across distantly related host plants.

This multidisciplinary project is based in the laboratory of Dr. Phil Carella, located in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the John Innes Centre. It provides an exciting opportunity to explore disease resistance in the emerging model liverwort M. polymorpha and to develop skills across plant pathology, land plant evolution, microbial virulence, and bioinformatics.

Applications are welcomed from students across the biological sciences that are interested in the evolution of plant-pathogen interactions.