CTP – PhD Studentship – Investigating durable resistance to Phytophthora cactorum in strawberry and apple

NIAB EMR: Dr. Charlotte F. Nellist (lead)
University of Reading: Prof. Jim Dunwell

The oomycete pathogen Phytophthora cactorum causes disease in over 250 plant species, including causing economic losses in cultivated strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) and apple (Malus x domestica). P. cactorum is the causative agent of crown rot and leather rot diseases in strawberry, as well as crown rot, collar rot and root rot diseases in apple. Breeding for resistance to these diseases is a key priority for the strawberry and apple breeding programmes at NIAB EMR.

Extensive work has been carried out at NIAB EMR identifying resistance quantitative trait loci (QTL) in response to isolates of P. cactorum from strawberry (Nellist et al. 2018), as well as sequencing 18 isolates of P. cactorum from both strawberry and apple. Isolates of P. cactorum from apple are unable to cause disease in strawberry, and so further work is required to explore non-host (broad-spectrum and durable) resistance to these isolates. In addition to this, apple rootstock germplasm will be screened for resistance/susceptibility to isolates of P. cactorum from apple and QTL mapping will be performed. Pathogenicity screens with isolates of P. cactorum from strawberry will also be performed and non-host resistance in apple to these isolates will be explored.


– Identify and map resistance to P. cactorum in apple rootstocks
– Generate RNAseq data investigating candidate pathogenicity genes and components of the apple immune response
– Explore non-host resistance in strawberry to apple P. cactorum isolates and in apple to strawberry P. cactorum isolates

Training opportunities
The successful candidate will gain a wide range of experience in plant pathology, including working with two important horticultural crops and economically important pathogens, running disease trials in a range of facilities, molecular genetics including analysis of expression studies, statistical analyses and bioinformatics. Moreover, this project is relevant to the UK horticulture industry because it will advance our understanding of the molecular basis of resistance to these economically important pathogens and ultimately result in the production of disease-resistant breeding material.

Desirable Candidate Attributes
Applicants should have (or expect to have) an Honours Degree (or equivalent) with a minimum of a 2.i, in a Plant Science, Plant Biology or Biological Sciences related degree, ideally with an emphasis on plant genetics or plant pathology.

Funding Details
Beginning in October 2018 with four years of funding, the successful candidate will be based at NIAB EMR, Kent and registered with the University of Reading with Prof. Jim Dunwell.

How to apply

Send your CV, cover letter, personal statement and details of two references to recruitment@emr.ac.uk, citing the project reference (CTP_FCR_2018_5). For further details please contact Dr. Charlotte Nellist – email: charlotte.nellist@emr.ac.uk or visit the Berry Gardens CTP Website, http://www.ctp-fcr.org/

Application will be considered as they arrive until the post is filled.

Armitage AD, Lysoe E, Nellist CF, Lewis L, Cano LM, Brurberg MB and Harrison RJ. (2018) Bioinformatic characterisation of the effector repertoire of the strawberry pathogen Phytophthora cactorum. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/05/21/321141

Nellist CF, Vickerstaff RJ, Sobczyk MK, Marina-Montes C, Brain P, Wilson FM, Simpson DW, Whitehouse AB, Harrison RJ. (2018) Quantitative Trait Loci Controlling Phytophthora cactorum Resistance in the Cultivated Octoploid Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa). https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/01/18/249573

Lee H-A, Lee H-Y, Seo E, Lee J, Kim S-B, Oh S, Choi E, Choi E, Lee SE and Choi D. (2017) Current understandings of plant nonhost resistance. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 30:1, 5-15. https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/MPMI-10-16-0213-CR

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