Our recently established group “Adaptive evolution of filamentous plant pathogens” at the Max Planck Institute for Biology is looking for a PhD candidate in Evolution and function of mini-chromosome encoded virulence proteins:

Advisor: Thorsten Langner & Location: Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen Plant pathogens constantly coevolve with their host plants to allow infection, which can have dramatic effect on crop yield and food security. Certain regions of pathogen genomes evolve at high rates to continuously overcome the plant immune system and manipulate metabolic and developmental processes in the host plant.

This enables rapid adaptation of virulence related proteins to diverse host genotypes or species and ultimately leads to disease. One driver of rapid adaptive evolution are genome rearrangements that can lead to copy number variations which further facilitate high evolutionary rates and affect the dosage of certain virulence related proteins.

One peculiar type of these large-scale structural variations in the genome of the blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae are mini-chromosomes. These are chromosomes that exist only in some individuals but that are absent in others. We have recently discovered a diverse set of mini-chromosomes in wheat- and rice-infecting M. oryzae isolates that encode several virulence effector proteins.

In this project we will study how these effector proteins evolve and interact with host target proteins to contribute to the aggressiveness of the blast fungus using a multidisciplinary approach including genetics, biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology. We will use this knowledge to redesign the plant immune system to provide resistance against the blast fungus.

To apply

Application deadline: 16 August 2023

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