Spatial mapping of host responses upon parasitic infections
Plant-parasitic worms are one of the most damaging pests in agriculture. Understanding the start of parasitism is fundamental for its management. Parasitic worms are more sensitive than anticipated to early immune responses triggered by receptors that monitor the integrity of plant cells.
Unlike highly specific intracellular major resistances, these generic receptors survey the cell exterior for tissue damage that betrays the presence of invaders. Parasitic worms can evade this surveillance and hijack the plant cell wall machinery to transform host cells into permanent feeding structures. This cellular transformation involves extensive plant cell wall modifications. In your thesis we will investigate in space and time the cellular and molecular changes required at the start of parasitism. Our current objectives are:
• To investigate at the cellular level the molecular changes needed to cause a parasitic disease. We will use the newly developed RNA tomography technology, advanced confocal microscopy, and spectroscopy.
• To enhance broad-spectrum worm resistance in crops by identifying natural variation in key regulatory plant genes that mediate cell wall integrity immune responses. We will use state-of-the-art bioinformatic tools and genome editing systems.
• To study cell wall integrity in host plants upon infection with parasitic worms. We will use advanced microscopy, fluorescent probes, CoIP, infection assays.