Professor Jonathan Todd, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Professor David Oram, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Billions of tonnes of the organosulfur compound dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) are made each year by marine algae, corals and bacteria. DMSP is a key marine nutrient pivotal in global sulfur cycling, as it is the main precursor of the climate-active gas dimethylsulfide (DMS), which gives the seaside its distinctive smell. Some plant species also make DMSP, and, although DMSP is established as an anti-stress molecule in marine algae and bacteria, its role in plants is less well understood. DMSP production is thought to allow plants to tolerate conditions associated with growing in stressful environments, e.g. the coast. Some plants produce DMSP at very high levels, including the cordgrass Spartina, which is reported to be the major DMSP producer in saltmarshes that are global hotspots for DMSP/DMS production. Using Spartina, we have recently discovered the first genes responsible for DMSP production in plants. Determining the overall contribution of plants to DMSP/DMS production is key to understand sulfur cycling in the natural environment.
In this project, we will explore how DMSP produced by plants affects their growth and survival in the natural environment. The student will evaluate DMSP production in plants grown under different environmental conditions using established analytical techniques, e.g. gas chromatography. They will also build on our recent work identifying DMSP synthesis genes and test how manipulation of these genes can be used to alter DMSP levels in plants.
This multi-disciplinary project will offer the student excellent training opportunities in diverse aspects of cutting-edge research in plant biology (including plant physiology and stress biology), bioinformatics, and the molecular biology and biochemistry of DMSP/DMS. Furthermore, the student will receive training in data analysis and manuscript preparation, whilst also having regular opportunities to present their work at national and international meetings.
We are looking for a highly motivated applicant with strong interests in plant biology, molecular biology, biochemistry and the natural environment, and who can thrive in a multi-disciplinary research laboratory. Candidates should have a background in biological or environmental sciences, and require a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor degree.