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Project details – Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab - Københavns Universitet

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Decoding of the chemical language of plants

Main area:
Target group:Biology-Biotechnology, Natural Resources, Other Education
Educational level:Bachelor, Master, Project outside course scope
Project description:

Transport of phytochemicals across cellular borders is essential for plant survival and fitness and has proven important in controlling key quality traits in agriculture. Moreover, transport engineering strategies that use altered expression of transporter proteins to change metabolite distribution patterns have contributed to the development of improved agronomic traits. Towards decoding the chemical language of plants, we strive to identify glucosinolate exporters as glucosinolates secreted to the surface of roots and leaves are key in shaping of the root microbiome and as oviposition stimuli that attract pest insects to lay their eggs. The absence of these compounds on the surface by mutating the transporter will prevent oviposition of specialist insects. This strategy has potential to increase yield of Brassica crop.

In the model plant Arabidopsis, we expect members of the ABC family of transporters to be responsible for the export of glucosinolates.

Your task (can be adjusted based on your interest):
a)   Screen glucosinolate candidate transporter library in yeast and Xenopus laevis oocytes
b)   Biochemical characterization of transporter in yeast (substrate specificity, Km value) and in planta (localization, expression level)
c)    In planta validation with characterization of loss-of- and gain-of-function mutants by NGS of microbiota, metabolite profiling and oviposition assay

Who we are: Research group of Barbara Ann Halkier in the DynaMo Center of Excellence ( We provide a stimulating, international research environment with lots of opportunities to advance your skills. Our research lab has a strong international research profile with a recent record of high impact publications.

Expectations: We expect you to be enthusiastic, dedicated and eager to learn and advance your skills in many disciplines (e.g. research, oral and written presentations).

Methods used:Heterologous expression of transporters in yeast, oocytes and plant hosts, biochemical characterization of transporters, bioinformatics on candidate gene family, analysis of MS data, transport engineering, plant genotyping. The project provides a solid foundation for future work in both research labs and biotech industry, and gives a solid foundation in basic skills in plant biology and biotechnology.
Keywords:Transport biology , Plant biotechnology, Sustainability, Metabolite profiling
Project home page:
Supervisor(s): Prof Barbara Halkier, Assistant Professor Deyang Xu,