PhD Project : Interaction between viruses (& pathogens) and stomata during
Supervisors : Prof Gary Foster and Prof Alistair Hetherington
(School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol)
In the School of Biological Sciences we wish to explore a novel hypothesis.
Plants possess pores on the surfaces of leaves called stomata. These are
responsible for controlling the uptake of carbon dioxide into the leaf. It
has also been recognized for many years that they act as the point of entry
into the plant for many pathogenic fungi. However, and surprisingly, what
has never been investigated is whether pathogenic viruses use stomata
directly or indirectly as part of their strategies for infecting the plant.
We think that there is evidence in the literature suggesting, not only that
this occurs, but that plants have evolved the capacity to defend against
this type of attack by closing their stomatal pores. Supporting this is the
observation that upon virus infection there is a marked elevation in leaf
temperature that can be visualised by infra-red thermography, even when
plants are presymptomatic. The increase in temperature is most likely due
to the reduction in leaf evaporative cooling caused closure of the stomatal
pores. There is also some evidence suggesting that the hypersensitive
response (HR) triggered by virus infection leads to elevated levels of
salicyclic acid (SA) that plays a positive regulatory role in stomata
closure. Surprisingly given the agronomic importance of viral infection
(billions of $ in crop damage) we know very little about this process. The
objective of the studentship is to carry out a full molecular and
physiological investigation into the interaction between viruses and stomata
and specifically identify whether the closure of stomata is part of a
virus-induced defence response by the plant or part of the strategy employed
by the virus for successful infection. Getting answers to these questions
will form the basis of new strategies designed to combat virus-induced
losses to important crop species. This will be possible by bringing together
the unique and complementary expertise of Prof Hetherington in stomatal
physiology & plant molecular biology and Prof Foster in virology & molecular
We are therefore seeking talented and motivated students in any aspect of
plant molecular biology, plant pathology, biochemistry or genetics (expected
to have or obtain at least a first or upper second class degree in an
appropriate subject or relevant MSc) to join our team and work towards a PhD
exploring virus/stomata interactions.
This PhD is available to start October 2010, with a stipend of £13,490 and
is open to UK and EU students. Interested applicants should send a covering
letter explaining their interest in carrying out a PhD as well as a CV to
, along with names and contact details (including
emails) for two academic referees.
Further information available at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/biology/
Deadline for applications is 17th March 2010.
Applications from self-funded students with finances secured are also
welcomed to work in similar areas within the group.
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