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Untangling the role of beta-1,3 glucan polymers in intercellular communication


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Dr Yoselin Benitez Alfonso
School of Biology
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Apply to join the Benitez-Alfonso team in their quest to dissect the mechanisms underpinning the function of beta-1,3 glucan polymers in plant growth and development. <br /> <br /> The School of Biology invites applications from prospective postgraduate researchers who wish to commence study for a PhD in the academic year 2024/25.<br /> <br /> We especially welcome applications that connect to the School's core research areas on Plant Sciences and Structural Biology.

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

<p>The project stems from research on the plant cell wall polysaccharide callose, which accumulates around intercellular pores named plasmodesmata to restrict the transport of signalling molecules, proteins, RNAs and the spreading of viruses and other pathogens. We recently identified new molecular probes and developed technologies to test the chemical and physico-mechanical properties of plant beta glucans. This project will apply these tools in understanding the role of callose, and other beta-1,3 glucans from fungal and bacterial origin, in root development and in the interaction with soil microbes.</p> <p>This exciting project is cross-disciplinary applying molecular biology and genetics to modify polysaccharide accumulation and using cell and structural biology to reveal changes in cell wall structures and cell development. Soft Polymer Mechanics will be used to translate structural data into physical properties and reveal details on cell mechanobiology that determines cell-to-cell communication. As a system, the student will use legumes and tomato to explore how the properties of beta-1,3 glucans influence the mechanisms regulating root interaction with symbiotic fungi and bacteria.</p> <p>The main outcomes of the project will be the fundamental mechanistic understanding of how beta-1,3 glucans affects plan development but there is also potential for knowledge translation into applications in crop improvement and biomaterial development. This is because, besides important regulators of plant cell communication, beta 1,3 glucans are elicitors of the immune response and targets to detect and improve resistance to microbes. They also modify cellulose properties leading to potential new biomaterial applications. The project team will ensure that the student have access to the most advance technologies and training to develop the project. At the Benitez Alfonso, we strive for an equal, diverse and inclusive environment and care for your wellbeing. Please consult our core values and other information at <a href=""></a></p> <h5>References:</h5> <ol> <li>German L, Yeshvekar R, Benitez-Alfonso Y. Callose metabolism and the regulation of cell walls and plasmodesmata during plant mutualistic and pathogenic interactions. Plant Cell Environ. 2023 Feb;46(2):391-404.&nbsp;</li> <li>Kirk P, Amsbury S, German L, Gaudioso-Pedraza R, Benitez-Alfonso Y. A comparative meta-proteomic pipeline for the identification of plasmodesmata proteins and regulatory conditions in diverse plant species. BMC Biol. 2022 Jun 2;20(1):128.&nbsp;</li> <li>Barmukh R, Roorkiwal M, Garg V, Khan AW, German L, Jaganathan D, Chitikineni A, Kholova J, Kudapa H, Sivasakthi K, Samineni S, Kale SM, Gaur PM, Sagurthi SR, Benitez-Alfonso Y, Varshney RK. Genetic variation in CaTIFY4b contributes to drought adaptation in chickpea. Plant Biotechnol J. 2022 Sep;20(9):1701-1715. doi: 10.1111/pbi.13840. Epub 2022 May 21. Erratum in: Plant Biotechnol J. 2023 Jun;21(6):1301. PMID: 35534989; PMCID: PMC9398337.</li> <li>Paniagua C, Sinanaj B, Benitez-Alfonso Y. Plasmodesmata and their role in the regulation of phloem unloading during fruit development. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2021 Dec;64:102145. Gaudioso-Pedraza R, Beck M, Frances L, Kirk P, Ripodas C, Niebel A, Oldroyd GED, Benitez-Alfonso Y, de Carvalho-Niebel F. Callose-Regulated Symplastic Communication Coordinates Symbiotic Root Nodule Development. Curr Biol. 2018 Nov 19;28(22):3562-3577.e6.</li> <li>Abou-Saleh RH, Hernandez-Gomez MC, Amsbury S, Paniagua C, Bourdon M, Miyashima S, Helariutta Y, Fuller M, Budtova T, Connell SD, Ries ME, Benitez-Alfonso Y. Interactions between callose and cellulose revealed through the analysis of biopolymer mixtures. Nat Commun. 2018 Oct 31;9(1):4538.</li> </ol>

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

<p>To apply for this project 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 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> </ul> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <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. Across all Faculties 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></p>

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

Applicants to this project based in the School of Biology should normally have an Undergraduate degree of 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject area. A Master&rsquo;s degree is desirable, but not essential. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Admissions Team prior to making an application.

<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 project is open to applicants who have the funding to support their own studies or who have a sponsor who will cover these costs.&nbsp;</p>

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

<p>For information about the application process please contact the Faculty Admissions Team:</p> <p>e: <a href=""></a></p>