Genetics (Becker 1)

Department / Institute
Faculty of Biology
Subject area
Plant Sciences, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Computational Biology
Project title
Induction of defence compounds in rice by fungal elicitors
Name of supervisor
Prof. Dr. Claude Becker
Number of open positions
Language requirements
Proficiency in English
Academic requirements
4-year Bachelor's plus Master's Degree;
at the time of application, the last final exam should have taken place in the past 4 years.
Study model
Full doctoral study model: 36 or 48 months

Project description

Plants mostly grow in dense communities, together with plants from the same or a different species. Because resources are scarce, plants must compete with their neighbours for nutrients, space, and water. Some plant species, including important crops such as rice, release chemical compounds to inhibit the growth of neighbours and to defend themselves against various pests.

Upon perceiving a chemical trigger, rice plants produce and release a particular type of diterpenes, momilactone A and B, that act against fungal pathogens as well as against non-kin plant species (Serra Serra et al. 2021). In this project, our goal is to identify the molecular trigger(s), the mechanism by which they are perceived, and the signalling cascade that ultimately leads to the enhanced production and release of the compounds. To this end, we employ a combination of genetics, genomics, biotechnology, and metabolomic analyses. In collaboration with microbiologists and biochemists, we will test an array of fungal extracts and filtrates from both beneficial and pathogenic fungi; via iterative fractionations and purifications, we aim to identify the specific molecules that trigger the response. Using reporter lines, mutant collections, and CRISPR/Cas9 technology, we will then focus on identifying the components of the signalling cascade.

The project is embedded in a group with very diverse expertise, ranging from Bioinformatics and Genomics to Plant Genetics and Biochemistry. We are looking for candidates with a solid background in molecular biology and genetics; expertise in computational data analysis and/or plant biology is a plus. Candidates should have an advanced level in spoken and written English.


Serra Serra, N., Schanmuganathan, R., Becker, C. (2021) Allelopathy in rice: a story on momilactones, kin recognition, and weed management. J Exp Bot, erab084, DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erab084.

Schandry, N., Becker, C. (2019) Allelopathic plants – models for studying plant-interkingdom interactions. Trends Plant Sci, 25: 176-185. DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2019.11.004

For further information, please contact Dr. Claude Becker:

Research group website

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