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Dr Sebastian Schornack


Contribution of microbial effector proteins to beneficial plant-microbe interactions    Plants constantly engage in interactions with microbial organisms. These interactions can either be detrimental such as those with the economically relevant fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, the causal agent of the Irish Potato Famine. However, they can also be beneficial to supply phosphate such as in symbiotic interactions of roots with fungi that occur in most land plants. Both types of microorganisms can form specialised structures inside host cells, termed symbiosomes, which facilitate nutrient and information exchange and translocate effector proteins into the host tissues to suppress immunity and regulate development.    We aim to characterize mechanisms by which effectors manipulate developmental processes important for beneficial microbe colonization. We have identified a Phytophthora effector which seems to impair symbiosome formation of mycorrhizal fungi while supporting colonisation by Phytophthora.    You will employ a set of pathogen effectors and will identify and clone effector candidates from beneficial microorganisms. You will generate synthetic plants where the root system expresses microbial effectors and assess effects on root development as well as colonisation by mycorrhizal fungi on the tissue and cellular level. Underlying processes will be studied for one selected effector.    During your research you will get the opportunity to acquire and employ several plant-microbe research techniques, including: Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of tissues, Confocal microscopy, microbial pathogens and infection assays. You will also gain mycorrhizal, plant and fungal biology knowledge.


  1. Rey T., Schornack S. (2013): Interactions of beneficial and detrimental root-colonizing filamentous microbes with plant hosts. Genome Biol. 14(6). Review.    
  2. Bozkurt, T.O., Schornack, S., Win, J., Shindo, T., Oliva, R., Cano, L.M., Jones, A.M.E., Huitema, E., van der Hoorn, R.A.L., Kamoun, S. (2011) Phytophthora infestans effector AVRblb2 prevents focal secretion of a plant immune protease, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(51)    
  3. Schornack S., Huitema E., Cano L.M., Bozkurt T.O., Oliva R., Van Damme M., Schwizer S., Raffaele S., Chaparro-Garcia A., Farrer R., Segretin M.E., Bos J., Haas B.J., Zody M.C., Nusbaum C., Win J., Thines M., Kamoun S. (2009): Ten things to know about oomycete effectors. Mol Plant Pathol. 10(6). Review.