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PhD in evolutionary and functional genomics of legume - rhizobium interactions (M/W)

This offer is available in the following languages:
Français - Anglais

Date Limite Candidature : vendredi 14 mai 2021

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General information

Reference : UMR9198-BENALU-002
Workplace : GIF SUR YVETTE
Date of publication : Friday, April 02, 2021
Scientific Responsible name : Peter Mergaert
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 October 2021
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

Legume plants obtain nitrogen via a symbiotic interaction with N2-fixing soil bacteria called rhizobia. In five legume clades, plants independently evolved an exploitative strategy in which rhizobia undergo an extreme cellular differentiation program, associated with a high return on investment to the plant. We showed that, in two of these clades, plants use antimicrobial peptides to trigger differentiation, and bacteria require a peptide transporter to cope with this stress. The exploitative mechanisms have not been analysed in the other clades yet. In this project, we want to test the hypothesis that convergent coevolution took place in the different legume clades and their rhizobia, both at phenotypic and molecular levels. To do so, the PhD student will combine evolutionary genomic analyses with functional assays, thus providing experimentally informed knowledge on the fundamental question of the part of repeatability in evolution, while simultaneously generating new tools to engineer a more efficient symbiosis.

Work Context

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD student to study convergent coevolution of plant antimicrobial peptides and bacterial ABC transporters involved in the establishment of the legume-rhizobium symbiosis, a mechanism that arose several times independently in the evolution of symbiosis. The CoEvolSym project funded by CNRS is a collaboration between the team of Evolutionary Genomics and Ecology (ESE, Orsay France), the lab of Plant-Bacteria Interactions (I2BC, Gif-sur-Yvette, France) and the lab of Systems Biology (Kingston, Canada). The PhD student will work mainly in the French laboratories, both located on the Paris-Saclay University campus (20km southbound from Paris), with short stays in Canada. CNRS and Paris-Saclay University are world leading research and academic institutions.
The ideal candidate will have a solid background on molecular evolution and an interest in symbiotic interactions, along a willingness to integrate experimental and bioinformatic approaches.
The Ecology, Systematics and Evolution unit (ESE) is a joint research unit of CNRS, AgroParisTech and Université Paris-Saclay, which conducts research in ecology and evolution that aims to study the origin and dynamics of biodiversity as well as the evolution and functioning of ecosystems. The unit is located on the Orsay scientific campus of the University of Paris-Saclay and has a staff of 125 people. The student will work in the "Evolutionary genetics and ecology" team.
The Institute for Integrative Biology of the Cell (I2BC) is a joint research unit of CNRS, CEA and Université Paris Saclay, which comprises 700 people and conducts research in nearly all fields of biology, aiming to understand the underlying mechanisms of life at the cellular and molecular scales. The student will work within the Microbiology Department in the “ Plant-Bacteria Interactions ” team.
The Biology Department at Queen's University (Kingston, Canada) is a research centre hosting 32 professors for a global size of 150 people. It is located in Kingston, Ontario. The student will work in the « Systems Biology » team.

Constraints and risks

Possible risks linked to the work with laser light sources (microscopy/cytometry) and with DNA interaclants (Ethidium bromide).

Additional Information

Applicants should upload (1) an application letter explaining their motivation and achievements and including a paragraph on the preferred questions or approaches they would like to focus on during the project, and (2) a full CV, including academic transcripts and contact details of two references.

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