Investigating the circadian clock of Verticillium dahliae and its influence on pathogenicity

This project aims to use bioinformatics and experimental approaches to characterize the circadian clock in the broad host range pathogen Verticillium dahliae and its influence on pathogenicity. In addressing this question, we aim to discover whether the pathogen is able to time aspects of host challenge in order to optimize infection.

To achieve our goals, we will:

   Identify components of the circadian clock within the fungal pathogen, firstly by searching homologous to the known clock components of the model fungus Neurospora crassa using comparative genetic approaches. Secondly, by RNA-seq gene expression studies throughout the course of infection to identify cyclic gene expression.

   Characterize the presence of circadian rhythms at the phenotypic level and understand the fungal regulation by environmental cues such as light and temperature.

   Use clock and light-sensing gene knockout strains to explore their implication on development and light response.

Carry out pathogenicity tests of mutants in planta to determine the effect upon pathogenicity during infection.

Principal investigator: Dr Richard Harrison and Dr Louise Johnson

PhD student: Emma Cascant Lopez

Funder: Reading University and NIAB-EMR

Duration: 2014-2018

Developmental stages of Verticillium dahliae in a 12 h light/12 h dark photoperiod (L to R). Conidiation occurs in the light phase and microsclerotia is produced in the dark phase. Microsclerotia production begins after 48 hrs of growth.

Conservation of major clock components across plant pathogenic Sordariomycete and Leotiomycete classes.

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