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TIRrifically complex but TIRribly exciting – unravelling metabolic immunity

Principal Supervisor: Professor Murray Grant

Secondary Supervisor(s): Dr Lijiang Song

University of Registration: University of Warwick

BBSRC Research Themes:

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Deadline: 23 May, 2024

Project Outline

This project delves into one of the hottest and most fascinating recent discoveries in our journey to understanding plant disease defense responses. It has potential o make a massive contribution to enhancing food security as plant disease resistance genes underpin all major breeding programmes in elite crops. The project builds on some pioneering discoveries that underline the complexity of pathogen plant interactions. For nearly 30 years we have known the structure of plant disease resistance proteins but fro more than a quarter of a century we were unable to understand how they functioned to trigger disease resistance.

This project focusses on the Toll-Interlukin 1 (TIR) class of plant disease resistance proteins (TNLs) which form a tetrameric resistosome. The TIR domain has NADase activity which results in the production of variant cADP-ribose (vcADPR). This NADase activity is essential for defense and remarkably, pathogens deploy TIR domains to produce different v-cADPRs that interfere with plant immune signalling. This project will dissect how these contrasting TIR domain products impact the immune outcome. It involves collaborators in the USA, Hong Kong and Australia and deploys a range of pre-existing tools and techniques including real time imaging, RNAseq, CRISPR, genetically encoded reporters and targeted mass spectrometry to achieve this objective. Warwick has excellent facilities for this research including state-of-the-art imaging suite and one of the UKs leading Mass Spectrometry facilities.

If you want to work at the cutting edge of plant immunity and develop interdisciplinary skill sets for a future research career, then you may want to consider this project.


From the lab:

  • Manik et al., Science 377, eadc8969 (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.adc8969
  • Bayless et al., Sci. Adv. 9, eade8487 (2023)
  • Jacob et al. 2023 PNAS


  • Chai et al. 2023, MPMI Vol.
  • Chai et al. 2023 Current Opinion in Plant Biology 2023


  • Microbiology & plant pathology
  • Plant Molecular Biology
  • Targeted analytical chemistry (mass spectrometry)
  • Genetically encoded reporter analysis & whole plant imaging
  • RNA-seq
  • CRISPR gene editing