|Title of Project|
|Disrupting NLR networks: the case of plant-parasitic nematodes.|
|This project going to be…|
|Full Name of Supervisor|
|Institution Department and Address|
|93 Lawrence Weaver Road
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB30LE
|Head of Group|
|Full name of the day to day supervisor and/or arrangements for supervision|
|The student will join the plant-pathology ‘supergroup’ at the Crop Science Centre: a brand-new research institute and joint initiative between the University of Cambridge and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany that aims to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable agriculture.
The student will have the benefit of joint supervision by experts in each respective part of the project: Lida Derevnina (LD), and members of her newly established lab, will be the primary supervisor and mentor for aspects related to plant immunity; Sebastian Eves-van den Akker (SEvdA) and members of his lab will supervise aspects related to effector discovery. This multidisciplinary and collaborative project will provide the student with a range of skills that will be greatly beneficial for their future careers and the experience of working in the collaborative environment that is commonplace in research.
The student will first be introduced to the study system and rationale for their project. They will then be guided through computational experiments and challenged to design a pipeline to aid in effector discovery in collaboration with SEvdA. In the lab, they will learn laboratory best practices by working closely with experienced members of the LD and SEvdA groups. They will be guided through the foundations of molecular cloning, transformation, plasmid extraction, sequencing etc, before transitioning to semi-autonomous working days to develop their independence as a researcher. No previous experience is required.
The student will be well integrated into all social and academic aspects of the laboratory. They can expect regular meetings with their supervisor(s) and daily contact with experienced members of the laboratory. The student will be encouraged to participate in informal academic meetings to discuss their progress and in discussions on other projects during lab meetings. These formal and informal meetings will provide the supervisors an opportunity to assess the student’s progress and understanding of their project. At the end of the internship, the student will consolidate their knowledge, experience, and results into a formal presentation to the rest of the laboratory to showcase their critical assessment skills and progress.
|Date of Project Commencement|
|Brief Description of Project|
|The plant immune system relies on nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat-containing (NLR) proteins to respond to invading pathogens and activate immune responses. An emerging paradigm in NLR biology is that “sensor” NLR proteins are paired with “helper” NLR proteins for immune signalling. In the Solanaceae, a major phylogenetic clade of NLRs form a complex immunoreceptor network in which multiple helper NLRs are required by a much larger number of sensor NLRs to mediate immunity against diverse pathogens. Many of these helper NLRs are highly, or exclusively, expressed in roots—implicating them in immunity against root infecting pathogens, such as potato cyst nematodes. As such, helper NLRs are likely targets of pathogen derived molecules, known as effectors, as a means of overcoming plant immune responses. Thus, studying the extent to which effectors suppress helper NLRs offers an opportunity to understand the evolution and robustness of the NLR network.
A pilot study involving a fraction of nematode effector diversity has already revealed that plant parasitic nematodes secrete effectors to target helper NLRs expressed in solanaceous roots. Using the model Solanaceae plant, Nicotiana benthamiana, as a study system, we previously tested 26 nematode effectors for immunosuppression function. Of those 26 effectors, ~ 10% were shown to suppress NLR network activity. We hypothesise many unknown effectors also function to suppress NLR network activity. Extending this study across the greater nematode effectorome is of paramount importance and will lead to greater insights into the mechanisms parasitic nematodes use to perturb immune receptor networks, and thus potential interventions to manage this pest in agriculture.
The student will participate in a programme of research aimed at dissecting the immune-supressing functions of potato cyst nematode effectors, by working to identify, clone, and screen nematode effectors for helper NLR-suppressing ability in N. benthamiana. The student will have the opportunity to: i) develop a bioinformatics pipeline to mine effector candidates from the genome of potato cyst nematodes, based on recent advances in gland-cell sequencing technology; ii) use synthetic biology techniques to clone the candidate effectors into the relevant expression vectors; iii) and test their activity for suppression of helper NLRs using Agrobacterium-mediated expression in N. benthamiana. This multidisciplinary project involves computational and wet lab experiments that will be tailored to the interests and skills of the successful applicant, to maximise their contribution to the overall research programme.
Taken together, this project will provide an opportunity for immersive training in cutting edge plant pathogen research to a new trainee, and uncover details of the fascinating and agronomically important co-evolutionary arms race that occurs between potato cyst nematodes and their solanaceous plant hosts.
|Attach the recommended reading for the project|
|Wu et al 2017 NLR network mediates immunity to diverse plant pathogens PNAS 114(30) https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1702041114
Wu, Derevnina et al 2018 Receptor networks underpin plant immunity Science 360(6395) DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2623
Derevnina et al 2021 Plant pathogens convergently evolved to counteract redundant nodes of an NLR immune receptor network PLoS Biology https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001136
Eves-van den Akker, Sebastian. “Plant–nematode interactions.” Current opinion in plant biology 62 (2021): 102035. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2021.102035