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Targeted engineering of quantitative traits in plants

Principal Supervisors: Dr Jose Gutierrez-Marcos, School of Life Sciences and Dr Peter Meyer, University of Leeds.

PhD project title: Targeted engineering of quantitative traits in plants

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Our ability to develop novel beneficial crop traits has significantly improved over the last century, although the ability to maintain this trajectory is limited by allelic diversity. While genetic variation at coding sequences has been heavily exploited for crop improvement, most quantitative traits reside in mutations at non-coding regulatory regions. This project aims to methodology to engineer mutations and epimutations at regulatory regions and evaluate their phenotypic impact. It is anticipated that the student will develop a platform to enhance phenotypic variation of selected agricultural traits, which will provide the basis for analyzing the link between gene-regulatory elements and quantitative traits.

Key experimental skills involved:

The student will carry out a series of experiments in tomato designed to engineer mutations and epimutations, using CRISPR/Cas9 at the regulatory regions of genes known to be implicated in agronomic performance. These plants will be used to select allelic variants or epimutations causing enhanced agricultural performance. He/She will use computational approaches and laboratory experimentation to investigate the relationship between the temporal/spatial regulation of defined regulatory networks and trait performance.


  • Cortijo et al., (2015) Mapping the epigenetic basis of complex traits, Science 343: 1145-1148
  • Pai et al., (2015) The Genetic and Mechanistic Basis for Variation in Gene Regulation PLOS Genetics 11: 1-8

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

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

The student will be working in a multidisciplinary environment: the laboratory of JGM has an international track record in genomic and epigenomic analysis in plants and the group of PM has an international track record in targeted genome manipulation.

Contact: Dr Joe Gutierrez Marcos, University of Warwick