POSITION: KU Leuven – Netherland, LOOKING FOR A PhD researcher Apply no later than : August 30, 2014
Both abiotic and biotic stresses are the principle cause of enormous crop productivity losses worldwide. Although the use of classic pesticides limits such losses, most of them are expensive, toxic for the environment and leave residues on food. The identification of multi-stress tolerance genes and molecular players linking biotic and abiotic stress-signaling pathways has become a major research focus, which should lead to the development of multi-stress tolerant crops with increased productivity. In particular, substantial efforts are undertaken to find ways to stimulate the plant’s innate immune system (by so-called “priming” efforts). Plant cells have a self-defense capability, and the overall integrity of the plant is secured by several defensive barriers being able to discriminate between “self” and “non-self”. “Non-self” molecules (such as chitosan) act as signaling compounds and effectors leading to adaptive stress responses in plants (Nandini et al., 2013). However, recent data strongly suggest that abnormally high levels of endogenous “self” sugar metabolites, leaking from damaged cells (the damage self-hypothesis), can also function as signals and effectors to trigger multi-stress responses in a process termed “sweet immunity”. This project aims to investigate the sweet priming properties of chitosan and a number of plant-derived water soluble carbohydrates (sucrose, fructans and raffinose family oligosaccharides) in a number of crops (tobacco, mung bean and lettuce) with deeper investigations on the underlying (sugar signaling) mechanisms involved.