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The influence of the circadian clock on plant-herbivore interactions

Supervisor: Dr Mike Roberts

Deadline for Applications: Applications accepted all year round
Funding Type: Self-Funded Students Only
Type of Study: PhD


Circadian rhythms are the endogenous oscillations, occurring with a periodicity of approximately twenty four hours, in the biochemical, physiological and behavioural functions of organisms. Circadian rhythms are controlled by internal molecular clocks, and act to synchronise biological processes with the external environment, thereby optimising fitness. In plants, some stress responses are 'gated' by the circadian clock - in other words, the response to stress is different depending on the time of day. We have recently published data illustrating various effects of light/darkness on the plant response to wounding, and have preliminary evidence linking the circadian clock with changes in gene expression induced by mechanical damage to the leaves of Arabidopsis plants. This in turn suggests that the clock may also modulate defence against insect herbivores.

The project will be part of a wider interest in LEC in the molecular biology, physiology and ecology of pant-insect interactions. The science proposed in the project addresses some fundamental issues in plant biology which are currently the focus of international interest, and if successful, should lead to high impact publications. The studentship will provide training in molecular techniques for measuring gene expression, plant physiology and insect biology.

Download: further project information.

Funding Notes

This project is offered on a self-funding basis, although we are actively seeking funds to support it from a variety of sources. It is open to applications from students with funding or applying to funding sources.


Morker K.H., Roberts M.R. (2011) Light exerts multiple levels of influence on the Arabidopsis wound response. Plant Cell & Environment 34, 717-728.

Roden L.C. & Ingle R.A. (2009) Lights, rhythms, infection: The role of light and the circadian clock in determining the outcome of plant-pathogen interactions. The Plant Cell 21, 2546-2552.

Wang W., Barnaby J.Y., Tada Y., Li H., Tör M., Caldelari D., Lee D.U., Fu X.D., Dong X. (2011) Timing of plant immune responses by a central circadian regulator. Nature. 470, 110-114.

Hotta C.T., Gardner M.J., Hubbard K.E., Baek S.J., Dalchau N., Suhita D., Dodd A.N. & Webb A.A.R. (2007) Modulation of environmental responses of plants by circadian clocks. Plant, Cell & Environment 30, 333-349.

Covington M.F., Maloof J.N., Straume M., Kay S.A. & Harmer S.L. (2008) Global transcriptome analysis reveals circadian regulation of key pathways in plant growth and development. Genome Biology 9, R130.