BSc Thesis Topic: On the role of lateral gene transfer in the evolution of plant parasitic nematodes

How to become a (plant) parasite? This is a central question underlying this BSc subject.

One of the main challenges for a nematode to use plants as a food source is the penetration of the plant cell wall, a major physical barrier. Plant parasitic nematodes produce cell wall degrading enzymes (CWDEs), and we have various (so far non conclusive) indications that the corresponding genes were acquired from bacteria by lateral gene transfer. So far mainly high impact plant parasites have been investigated, and in this BSc topic you will be looking for the origin of the plant cell wall degrading enzymes by investigating their distribution and nature of these CDWEs in basal (‘primitive’) plant parasites. The research will include the PCR amplification, cloning and sequencing of CDWEs, and the phylogenetic analysis of the resulting data.

Head region of a plant pathogenic nematode - Pratylenchus penetrans. Picture: Hanny van Megen
Head region of a plant pathogenic nematode - Pratylenchus penetrans. Picture: Hanny van Megen