Are you intrigued by the relationships between plants, insects, and the environment? Do you have a passion for unraveling the mysteries of ecological interactions at a molecular level? We invite enthusiastic and dedicated candidates to join our cutting-edge research team as a PhD student to delve into the fascinating world of plant volatiles. The position is supported by a recently awarded NWO-VIDI grant. You will be joined by a technician and a post doc working on the same subject.
If you enjoy working in an interdisciplinary research team and are eager to contribute to the understanding of plant volatile signaling and perception, then the Plant Physiology group
, which is part of the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences in the Faculty of science at the University of Amsterdam, is the place to be. The research group Plant Physiology investigates the molecular and physiological basis of plant signaling cascades in response to biotic stress. What are you going to do?
In this interdisciplinary PhD project, you will build upon groundbreaking discoveries in the field of "green leaf volatiles" (GLVs) – a group of compounds released by plants upon herbivory. Our team has uncovered a class of enzymes in plants and insects (called hexenal isomerases) that have significant influence on ecological dynamics by re-arranging the green leaf volatile, Z-3-hexenal, into E-2-hexenal. We have shown that these changes affect not only the behavior of insects interacting with the plant but also the metabolism of the plant itself as well as its nearby competitors. However, how plants perceive GLVs and generate a functional response is not known. We have already identified mutants in the model species Arabidopsis which have lost their ability to respond to the GLV E-2-hexenal.Research Objectives
: Your journey as a PhD candidate will revolve around two pivotal objectives:
Perception Mechanism Elucidation: With a keen focus on E-2-hexenal, you will employ advanced genetic screening techniques to unravel the mechanism behind plant perception of GLVs. Through mutation mapping and screening for "deaf" plants, you will illuminate the enigmatic process of E-2-hexenal perception.
Eco(Physiological) Implications: Building on your genetic insights, you will engineer non-responsive and non-producing E-2-hexenal mutant potato plants. This will allow you to explore the profound roles E-2-hexenal plays in self-recognition, interactions with herbivorous insects, and responses to pathogens.
During your PhD research, you will apply a variety of techniques, including (but not limited to) DNA cloning, heterologous expression of candidate genes, transgene complementation assays using CRIPS/Cas9, creation of mutant plants using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, standard Plant Physiology measurements to phenotype mutant plants, Bioassays with several pests and pathogens, RNAseq, metabolomics including GC-MS and LC-MS analyses.