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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2017-11-01 - 2020-10-31

Plants undergo several developmental transitions in the course of their life cycle, marked by specific morphological changes such as altered leaf morphology, the formation of leaf hairs (trichomes) and the onset of flowering. Mutants in the putative O-GlcNAc transferase SPINDLY show an accelerated transition from the juvenile to the adult phase, as well as early flowering, but a potential connection between O-GlcNAcylation and phase change has not been adressed as yet. O-GlcNAcylation is a common posttranslational modification, where a single N-acetyl-β-D glucosamine (GlcNAc) is O-linked to side chains of serine- or threonine residues in nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins. The targets and molecular function of O-GlcNAcylation in plants are not well characterized. In animals, this modification serves an important signalling role in a range of different cellular processes, often in response to stress and nutrients. As the availability of the donor molecule UDP-GlcNAc reflects the overall state of nutrition within cells, it has been suggested that O-GlcNAcylation may integrate information on stress and nutrients to basic cellular processes on a global level. On the other hand, the timing of developmental transitions in plants is regulated by the amount of available sugar accumulating during plant growth. This process is mediated by balancing the ratio between miRNA156 and miRNA172, therefore regulating the downstream miRNA156 target genes, a family of SPL-transcription factors. Given the observed early transition phenotypes in spy-mutants, this project aims to investigate a potential role of SPY in developmental transitions, focusing on the juvenile to adult phase change and the regulation of flowering time. Levels of miRNA156 and its target genes in spy-mutant backgrounds will be analysed, and genetic analysis will be performed to establish the interaction of SPY and SPL transcription factors. These experiments will establish if SPY regulates developmental transitions via the miRNA156 pathway and/or SPL transcription factors. Additional experiments will adress a potential role of gibberellin signaling in this interaction.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2017-09-01 - 2020-08-31

Fungal-plant interactions constitute fine-tuned interplays where each of the participating organisms has evolved efficient strategies to win over the other. To establish a successful infection of a plant host the invading fungal pathogen has to quickly respond and adapt to numerous plant defence mechanisms. This implies a coordinated expression of metabolic and virulence-associated genes, and there is compelling evidence that part of the communication between both interacting organisms is regulated at the level of chromatin. In this project, we strive to unravel chromatin-based mechanisms that govern adequate transcriptomic responses during the host-pathogen interaction using the notorious plant pathogen Fusarium graminearum and wheat (Triticum aestivum) as pathosystem. We have previously identified and characterised a heterochromatin-deficient mutant (Δhep1) that exhibited a hypervirulent phenotype. While most strains deficient for a specific chromatin regulator exhibit a hypo- or avirulent phenotype, deletion of the heterochromatin protein 1-encoding gene (hep1), exhibited a hypervirulence of F. graminearum towards its plant host wheat (J. Strauss and colleagues, unpublished data). This phenotype provides a unique advantage in terms of in planta analyses.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2017-10-01 - 2020-09-30

The main aim of the project is to question how cell-cell communication within a fungal colony works and if there is an epigenetic memory within this network. Specifically we work on: (i) We will use specific reporter strains which display metanbolic activity within a colony and use these strains to follow signal generation and establishment.(ii) we will use our panel of epigenetic mutants in combination with the reporter strains as look if and how the signal transmission is changed in these mutants. The project will hae an educational part in which young students will learn to work with fungi and get acquainted with sophisticated microscopic methods.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations