PhD - Deciphering novel plant responses to heat stress and nutrition scarcity using integrated...

Updated: 11 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 10 Jan 2022

La Caixa INPhINIT Incoming Fellowships are dedicated and offered to early-stage researchers of any nationality to pursue their PhD studies in research centers accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence Severo Ochoa, María de Maeztu or Health Institute Carlos III and Portuguese units participating in the program.

  • 3 years contract

  • Candidates cannot have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than twelve months in the three years immediately prior to the deadline for application.

  • Program includes a training programme on transversal skills aiming in widening the chances for personal development, not only in academia, but also in industry.

  • Candidates must be in the first four years of their research career and must not have previously obtained a PhD degree or be in a position to apply for one

  • Candidates must accredit an advanced level of English (B2 or higher)

  • Competitive salary with additional amount for research costs and a €7500 prize for fellows who deposit the thesis within 6 months after the third year of the fellowship has ended

Research Project / Research Group Description

Crop growth and productivity, and therefore food security, is threated by the increasing population, the ongoing rise in fertilizer´s price, and the unpredictable climate change effect. Thus, to increase crop production according with market and society demands, we have to develop a more sustainable, cost-efficient, environmental-friendly agriculture. Modern agriculture uses large amounts of phosphate (Pi)-rich fertilizers to increase plant production. However, this is both ecologically detrimental and financially unsustainable due to Pi natural sources reduction and rising price. The root system is responsible for uptake of water and nutrients as well as the soil microbiota interaction. Global climate change will strengthen the negative effect of abiotic stresses such as extreme temperatures, drought, salinity, or nutrient assimilation. High temperatures compromised water and nutrient availability, decreasing crop growth and production. For simplicity, many roots studies, including phenotyping and gene expression, were done using in vitro, in walk-in chambers or in greenhouses grown plants. The advantage of using these enclosed-environments is the fine-tune control of growing conditions (temperature, soil salinity, nutrient, etc). However, these conditions have been mainly optimized for the aerial part of the plant. Conversely, less attention has been paid to the soil-root-microbiome environmental conditions, especially in experiments involving heat stress, where the soil reached abnormal high temperatures (similar to the atmosphere). However, in the field, the temperature surrounding roots and microbes is lower because the buffer capacity of the soil. We have engineered a novel device, TGRooZ, to generate temperature gradient in root growing zone, for both in vitro or pot-containing soil. This will facilitate the analyses of warming and will allow to identify new and unpredictable genes, microbes or metabolites involved in plant adaptation to high temperatures.

Job position description

Many of the experiments related to warming or heat performed in the greenhouse or in vitro cultivation plates have not considered that the root system is not normally exposed to high temperatures since the soil acts as a buffer and generates a gradient. Thus, to obtain an accurate data of the effect of high temperatures on plant nutrition, gene expression, and microbiome association, the root system should be analyzed in a temperature gradient condition. We truly believe that the use of our novel TGRooZ device will provide a perfect experimental set up to carry out this novel and challenging climate-microbiome-nutrition studies.

The researcher will be involved:

  • in collecting roots and shoot of plants grown at high temperatures in the greenhouse using the TGRooZThis material will be used to carry out transcriptomic analyses (RNAseq), ionomic analyses and metagenomics (bacteria and fungus) identification. These analyses are aimed at identifying novel pathways that connect Pi starvation with heat and salinity a as well as with positive microbiome interaction.
  • Carry out a systematic screening of a fugal collection from Atacama desert (Chile) to identify fungus that improve plant growth and yield in warm environments will be carried out using the using the  TGRooZ. These new fungus could be use as bio-solutions in agriculture.
  • Finally, the researcher will be involved in analyzing the effect of warming and phosphate deficiency on epigenetic regulation (DNA methylation and small RNA formation) involved in gene expression regulation. Connected with this, he/she will analyze the small RNA production in root-associated fungus and its effects on gene silencing in the plant genome.


Dr. Juan Carlos del Pozo



View or Apply

Similar Positions