Starting from: negotiable

Under supervision of Yanxia Zhang ( and Christa Testerink (

Plant development is highly responsive to specific conditions that the plant experiences. Salt stress is one of the major threats for modern agriculture. Salt stress has massive impacts on plant root growth and root morphology. Lateral root are major components of the plant root system. Under normal conditions, the plant hormone auxin is a central player in regulating lateral root development. A number of studies have described the molecular mechanism of lateral root development under normal conditions. Yet, the molecular mechanisms underlying salinity-induced changes in root system architecture (RSA) and lateral root development are largely unknown.

Natural variation among Arabidopsis accessions in root development under salt stress has been examined and different root plasticity cryptotypes were identified. Using genome-wide association study (GWAS), a salt-induced auxin signalling pathway transcription factor was identified for mediating lateral root development under salt stress. This genetic locus implies a role for possible regulation of transcriptional regulatory network in root branching. Using this transcription factor as a bait, I am investigating the gene regulatory networks mediating root branching in salt. Using yeast one hybrid and yeast two hybrid screening methods, several transcription factor candidates have been identified as possible upstream regulators and protein interactors of this salt-induced transcription factor. Further investigation will be performed to functional characterized these candidate transcription factors.

The project will include plant root phenotyping and plant promoter activity assays (luciferase assay), more advanced plant molecular biology techniques will be also included, such as DNA extraction, genotyping and molecular cloning. Furthermore, there is also possibility of the microscopy work depending on the progress of the work.

The following techniques will be used: Phenotyping, molecular techniques (PCR, DNA/RNA isolation, cloning), microscopy, statistics.