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Exploring and exploiting strigolactone exudation in wheat


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 3 February 2023
Project start date
Sunday 1 October 2023
Country eligibility
UK only
Competition funded
Source of funding
Dr Tom Bennett
Additional supervisors
Dr Stephen Thomas
School of Biology
Research groups/institutes
Plant Science
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The detection of environmental information allows plants to shape their growth to prevailing conditions, and plays a key role in determining the productivity of crop species that feed the global population. Strigolactones are key signalling molecules in these environmental responses, which act internally to transmit information from root to shoot, and which are also exuded into the soil to promote formation of mycorrhizal symbioses.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Our recent work has shown that plants can also detect strigolactone molecules exuded into the rhizosphere by their neighbours. Plants use this information on neighbour density to match their shoot growth to the availability of space in the soild, particularly during the first few weeks of life (seedling establishment)(1,2). We therefore hypothesize that by specifically modulating strigolactone exudation in crop species, we can improve both seedling establishment and mycorrhizal symbioses, and thereby ultimately improve crop yields. In this project, we will focus on the key strategic UK crop wheat, using newly available genetic tools and techniques to improve our understanding of strigolactone synthesis and diversity, and to test and define the role of different strigolactone molecules in different inter-organismal signalling processes.&nbsp;</p> <h5>Specific objectives</h5> <ol> <li>Define the importance of strigolactones in plant-plant signalling in wheat.&nbsp;</li> <li>Characterise the strigolactone exudates of wheat.</li> <li>Characterise the function of CYP711A enzymes in generating the diversity of strigolactone molecules produce by wheat.</li> </ol> <p>This exciting multi-disciplinary project will use a combination of molecular genetic, biochemical, cell biological and advanced bioimaging approaches to understand the role of strigolactone exudation in wheat, and to identify pathways towards improved crop function and yield. For objective 1, we will use mutants that lack all strigolactone synthesis/signalling, to test the role of strigolactones in plant-plant signalling in wheat, particularly during seedling establishment. For objective 2, we will use LC-MS to characterize the blend of strigolactone exuded by wheat. For objective 3, the student will generate new CYP711A multiple mutants in wheat, by crossing together existing null mutations from a wheat TILLING population. These lines should lack some, but not all strigolactone species. The student will then characterize the effect of these lines on inter-organismal signalling and strigolactone exudation.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5>References</h5> <ol> <li>Wheeldon CD, Hamon-Josse M, Lund H, Yoneyama K, Bennett T. (2022). Environmental strigolactone drives early growth responses to neighbouring plants and soil volume in pea. Current Biology 32, 3593-3600.</li> <li>Yoneyama K, Xie X, Nomura T, Yoneyama K, Bennett T. (2022). Supra-organismal regulation of strigolactone exudation and plant development in response to rhizospheric cues in rice. Current Biology, in press. 32, 3601-3608.</li> </ol>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>To apply for this scholarship opportunity applicants should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and attach the following documentation to support their application.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>a full academic CV</li> <li>degree certificate and transcripts of marks</li> <li>Evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (if applicable)</li> </ul> <p>To help us identify that you are applying for this scholarship project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;</p> <ul> <li>Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study</li> <li>Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert</li> <li>For source of funding please state you are applying for a Gosden PhD scholarship</li> </ul> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. &nbsp;Within the Faculty of Biological Sciences we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+; and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em>&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. A Master degree is desirable but not essential.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>This Gosden PhD Studentship in Plant Science will cover academic fees at the UK rate and attract an annual tax-free stipend of &pound;17,668 for up to four years, subject to satisfactory progress. Due to limited funding we can only consider applicants for this position who are eligible to pay fees at the UK rate.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Faculty Graduate&nbsp;School&nbsp;</p> <p>e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>