The Laboratory of Nematology
at Wageningen University and Research is looking for a PhD researcher to be a part of an EU HORIZON EUROPE project entitled “An integrated set of novel approaches to counter the emergence and proliferation of invasive and virulent soil-borne nematodes” (acronym: Nem
Emerge) (start: early 2024). Nem
Emerge concentrates on two drivers of emerging diseases: global warming (pathogens proliferate in a poleward direction) and genetic selection (due to ample use of a small set host plant resistances).
The project consortium comprises 19 partners from all over Europe that work together in ‘work packages’ that address different aspects of this project. The project allowed us to appoint three PhD’s: each will work on another work package, but together you will be a team of PhDs that contribute to the overall project goals.
Nematodes, also referred to as roundworms, are ubiquitous in soils. A small minority of the plant-parasitic nematodes seriously threatens food and feed production and needs to be controlled. Nem
Emerge concentrates on the two most impactful plant-pathogenic nematodes, namely root-knot and cyst nematodes. Chemical control of these nematodes is no longer a viable option, and durable alternatives have to be developed. Such solutions are - almost without exception - knowledge-intensive, and as a PhD you will directly contribute to sustainable disease control by addressing urgent scientific questions in a European framework.
A major strategy to address nematode-associated problems in the field is the use of resistant crop varieties. Many important plant resistance (R
) genes, encode so-called intracellular NLR immune receptors that detect intruding pathogens and induce specific defence responses. However, the effective self-defence of crops via NLRs is threatened by global warming since some NLRs can break down under heat stress (see Fig. 1) leaving the plant (and growers) deprived of a specific defence mechanism.
The molecular mechanisms underlying the breakdown of NLR-dependent nematode resistance are virtually unknown. As a PhD candidate, you will investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying NLR heat (in)stability to obtain novel insights into the impact of heat stress on NLR-mediated nematode crop resistance. Moreover, you will contribute to the development of science-based solutions to prolong the lifespan of nematode NLR resistance genes under heat stress.
Your duties and responsibilities include:
You will work here:
- the design of experimental setups to study the impact of heat stress on nematode resistance NLR proteins;
- the use of bio-informatic tools for comparative sequence analyses, protein modelling and structural analyses;
- the use of molecular and biochemical techniques to identify and characterize molecular determinants of NLR heat stability;
- the use of structure-informed approaches for functional testing of NLR mutants;
- the development of strategies to engineer and/or select novel candidate genes conferring nematode resistance under heat stress.
The research is embedded within the chair Laboratory of Nematology
and members of the Nematology team, which is led by Prof. Geert Smant
. You will be co-supervised by dr. Hans Helder and dr. Aska Goverse.