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Why does immunity disturb stem cell and cell cycle function?

Principal Supervisor: Dr Patrick Schäfer, School of Life Sciences

Co-supervisors: Dr Alex Jones, Miriam Gifford, School of Life Sciences

PhD project title: Why does immunity disturb stem cell and cell cycle function?

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

This project will combine RNAseq, state-of-the-art proteomics-based techniques and confocal live cell imaging to identify genes and proteins that regulate meristematic cell function under immunity.

In all organisms, stem cell and cell cycle function are of outstanding importance for producing new cells for tissue growth and, hence, organismal survival. Any failure (e.g. mutations) in this system would have fatal consequences for an organism. Therefore, meristematic tissue (site of stem cell niche and cell division) has particular protection mechanisms in place to guarantee proper function under any conditions.

Enhancing plant immunity against pathogens is of outstanding importance to enhance disease resistance in crops and sustain food security. One significant limitation towards this aim is our lack of understanding of why immunity (activated to kill pathogens) inhibits tissue/plant growth.

We observed that immunity affects stem cell and cell cycle function, suggesting that plants prioritise immunity over growth under pathogen attack. It further suggests that promoting the cell cycle can overcome the crosstalk between growth and immunity. Importantly, our findings equip us with unique experimental systems to identify molecular mechanisms that regulate the cell cycle/growth under immunity.

This project is based on a profound set of preliminary data and will allow you to identify regulator of the cross-talk between immunity and the cell cycle/stem cell machinery. Your main working packages will include:

(1) RNAseq-based transcriptomics and bioinformatics techniques to identify key cross-talk regulators

(2) Proteomics to identify proteins interacting with identified crosstalk regulators and establish protein interaction networks in silico

(3) Live cell imaging experiments to understand the dynamic function of regulators in the context of a cell

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Food Security and Molecules, cells and systems

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • RNA sequencing
  • yeast two-hybrid
  • tandem mass spectrometry
  • protein immunoprecipitation
  • live cell imaging (e.g. confocal laser-scanning microscopy)
  • Bioinformatic and systems biology-based analyses of RNAseq and proteome data
  • In silico prediction of gene/protein functions and network modelling
Contact: Dr Patrick Schäfer, University of Warwick