Algal cell walls and their diversity: a PhD position

The green alga Penium under white light (top) and labelled with monoclonal antibody
The green alga Penium under white light (top) and labelled with a monoclonal antibody

Zoë Popper, an Annals of Botany Editor, has a funded  PhD position to characterise algal cell walls and make cell wall-directed monoclonal antibodies, using biochemical analysis and immunocytochemistry. The project will also generate and investigate cell wall mutants of the putative model charophycean green alga, Penium margaritaceum.

As Zoe and co-authors* wrote in their review earlier this year, Penium margaritceum (a charophycean green alga) is rapidly emerging as a model organism, and several characteristics make it a particularly appropriate tool for investigating all cell-wall biochemistry. It is a unicellular organism in the CGA, and it produces only a primary cell wall. Additionally, it has a cell-wall polymer constituency similar to land plants. It also is amenable to live-cell labeling with monoclonal antibodies and carbohydrate-binding modules for developmental studies. Finally, there is relative ease in its experimental manipulation, and genomic libraries will be available soon. A polysaccharide-rich cell wall is a shared feature of plants and algae, and is involved in their growth, cell-cell interactions, and defence responses. Additionally, many wall components have a commercial value. Therefore, better understanding of wall structure, composition and biosynthesis may facilitate their exploitation.

*Co-authors are Gurvan Michel, Cecilé Hervé, David Domozych, William Willats, Maria Tuohy, Bernard Kloareg and Dagmar Stengel

Relevant publications include: Popper ZA et al. 2011. Annual Review of Plant Biology 62:doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042110-103809

and Domozych DS et al. 2011. Journal of Botany doi:10.1155/2011/632165, Pathathil S, et al. 2010. Plant Physiol. 153: 514–525, Popper ZA and Tuohy MG, 2010. Plant Physiol. 153: 373–383, Sørensen I et al. 2010. Plant Physiol. 153: 366–372, Popper ZA. 2008. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 11: 286–292.

Working at National University of Ireland, Galway, Zoe is seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated student for a 4-year, SFI-funded (Research Frontiers Programme), PhD project. The project is in collaboration with Professor David Domozych (Skidmore College, USA, Professor Michael Hahn (Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, USA, and Professor Jocelyn Rose (Cornell University, USA, and will include 2 (4-month) research placements in collaborator laboratories. The student will be based full-time at NUI Galway and will be registered for the new School of Natural Sciences structured PhD programme.

Project skill set: The student will be trained in polysaccharide extraction, fractionation and biochemical characterisation, chromatography, immunocytochemistry, histology, microscopy (light, fluorescence, confocal), mutagenisation, ELISA. The student will also have opportunity to learn electron tomography at Skidmore College.

Qualifications: The project is suited to applicants who have an interest in plant biochemistry and evolution and a background in plant science/biology, botany, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, or chemistry but other cognate disciplines may be considered. Applicants should possess a minimum of a B.Sc. Honours degree graded at 2.1, or higher. Proficiency in English language (both written and spoken), an aptitude for critical inquiry and problem solving, are essential.

For further information, informal enquiries, and applications please e-mail: