Brian Staskawicz

Closed (1) Structure-based protein engineering approach to confer novel disease resistance in plants

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Food production must double by 2050 in order to feed an estimated world population of 9 billion people. Meanwhile, pests and diseases are responsible for 20-40% loss in crop yield worldwide, and this number is expected to grow with increasing climate fluctuations and the emergence of pesticide resistant strains. Thus, developing new methods to protect our crops against pathogens is necessary to ensure food security for generations to come.
In the wild, plants rely on their germline encoded innate immunity for defense. Intracellular immune receptors, termed NLRs (nucleotide-binding leucine rich repeat receptors), trigger the immune response upon detecting pathogen effectors delivered into the plant. Recognition of the effector by NLRs causes them to undergo a conformational transition to an oligomerized state that signals activation and expression of disease resistance.
A long term goal of the field of plant immunology has been to modify existing NLRs towards recognizing novel pathogen effectors that can be re-incorporated into the crop genome, thereby rendering the plant resistant to chosen diseases.
In this project, we will use the recently solved structure of an NLR directly binding to the pathogen effector in order to generate a library of NLR mutants. Different pathogen effectors will be screened against this library to find NLRs that confer resistance to new targeted pathogens.

The research associate will learn basic molecular biology methods (cloning, protein expression, western blotting, etc), generate phage-display libraries, run quality control tests and use these libraries to screen for mutants that bind a desired target.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Raoul Martin, Post-Doc

Qualifications: Ideal candidates have excellent note taking skills, great hand dexterity, and have taken classes in biochemistry.

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours

Related website: https://www.staskawiczlab.berkeley.edu/