Opportunities for different projects
In the scope of the VIDI project there are several opportunities for BSc and MSc theses and internships, carried out in the Biosystematics group at WUR. In our research group, we study the genetic basis of egg-killing HR triggered by cabbage white butterfly eggs (Pieris spp) in relatives of cabbage plants. At the same time, we try to elucidate the egg-derived molecule that triggers defense responses in the plants. Egg-killing is a unique first line-of-defense trait that helps rid plants of enemies before they become destructive. Programmed cell death or HR was originally described as a defense response to plant pathogens. The model plant Arabidopsis thaliana activates a response that is similar to the recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns after oviposition.
We study this HR-like response in the oilseed/ field mustard/ Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa) and its relative black mustard (Brassica nigra). We are interested to know the molecular mechanism of the response in Brassica plants, and identify genes that are involved in the process using QTL and GWA studies and mutant analyses. We also want to identify the egg-derived elicitor and perform metabolomics on the eggs to understand which molecule triggers the defense response. As the HR-like response resembles a defense response to plant pathogens, we hypothesize a role for microbes on the egg in triggering plant defenses, and aim to elucidate the role of the egg-associated microbiome herein.
We have opportunities for a diversity of student projects in this interdisciplinary topic. Your activities could range from plant phenotyping, gene expression, gene mapping, metabolomics, phylogenetic and evolutionary analyses and during the summer season field work/ experiments. You would work with brassicaceous plants, (different species of) butterflies/ moths and egg-associated microbes. Interested? Visit the TIP-WUR database for details on the specific projects or contact me!