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Understanding plant development and evolution in the context of environmental responses

Principal Supervisor: Dr Juliet Coates

Secondary Supervisor(s): Professor Daniel Gibbs, Dr Lindsey Compton, Dr Eugenio Sanchez-Moran (depending on exact project)

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

BBSRC Research Themes:

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Deadline: 4 January, 2024

Project Outline

The aim of the project is to understand how plants have adapted to respond to environmental challenges throughout evolutionary time by investigating key plant transcriptional regulators. Understanding these fundamental evolutionary processes enables application of this knowledge to mitigating the current global challenges associated with climate change, including food insecurity and ecological degradation.

We have recently discovered new roles for various transcriptional regulators in plant responses to light, sulphur deprivation and flooding/hypoxia.

The project will take molecular, genetic, cell biological, ‘omics and evo-devo approaches across a range of potential plant systems to further understand the functions and regulatory networks of the key transcriptional regulators. The project will include comparative work using seed plants (e.g. Arabidopsis, tomato, potato, barley) and non-seed plants (Physcomitrium (moss), Marchantia (liverwort)) and can be flexible to fit the research interests and expertise of the applicant.


Phokas A, Meyberg R, Briones-Moreno A, Hernandez-Garcia J, Wadsworth PT, Vesty EF, Blazquez MA, Rensing SA, Coates JC.

DELLA proteins regulate spore germination and reproductive development in Physcomitrium patens. New Phytol. 2023 238 p.654-672 doi: 10.1111/nph.18756.

Phokas A, Coates JC. (2021) Evolution of DELLA function and signalling in land plants. Evolution and Development 23 p.137-154 doi: 10.1111/ede.12365

Gibbs DJ, Voß U, Harding SA, Fannon J, Moody LA, Yamada E, Choudhary A, Bradshaw SJ, Swarup K, Lavenus J, Bassel GW, Nibau C, Bennett MJ, Coates JC. (2014) AtMYB93 is a novel negative regulator of lateral root initiation in Arabidopsis. New Phytologist 203 p.1194-207

Gibbs DJ, Coates JC (2014) AtMYB93 is an endodermis-specific transcriptional regulator of lateral root development in Arabidopsis. Plant Signalling and Behaviour DOI: 10.4161/psb.29808


Depending on the exact nature of the project, potential techniques include (but are not restricted to):

  • Molecular biology and cloning
  • Yeast two-hybrid analysis
  • Biochemical techniques (Western blotting, pull-downs, analysis of biopolymers, phytohormone analysis, metabolite analysis)
  • ‘Omics techniques (proteomics, RNAseq, ChIP-seq)
  • High-resolution imaging including confocal, TIRF, super-resolution microscopy
  • Transgenic plant generation
  • Whole-plant and cellular phenotyping with statistical analysis (including responses to blue/red light, hypoxia, drought, nutrient deprivation)
  • Bioinformatic analysis
  • Phylogeny reconstruction