Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Category: Standard Studentships

Decoding plant O-glycosylation signalling networks

Project No. 2344


Primary Supervisor

Dr Richard Meek – University of Southampton


Prof Matthew Terry – University of Southampton

Prof Andrew Pickford – University of Portsmouth


Glycosylation is the covalent attachment of sugars onto macromolecules, including proteins. Plants rely heavily on intricate glycosylation networks to control their growth, defence mechanisms, and responses to light and other environmental cues.

Nucleocytoplasmic mono-glycosylation is the attachment of a single sugar (GlcNAc or fucose) onto Serine or Threonine residues of target proteins. There is currently a poor understanding of how installation of GlcNAc (O-GlcNAcylation) and fucose (O-fucosylation) modulate the behaviour of plants, however, pioneering genetic studies link these modifications to regulating growth, circadian rhythms, and light responses. Indeed, known targets of mono-glycosylation are the DELLA proteins which are linked to higher-yielding varieties of nearly all crops.

This project will broaden our fundamental knowledge of O-glycosylation in plants by utilizing structural biology and biochemistry coupled with in vivo experiments in Arabidopsis to dissect how these sugars are installed on proteins and identify the proteins modified. Specifically, the project will look at structurally characterising enzymes involved in these processes, and specialised chemical tools and mass spectrometry will be used together to map pathways. Understanding the mechanisms by which sugars are transferred onto targets will enable the design of probes and inhibitors to further interrogate these modifications to guide crop development.

Ideally the candidate will have an interest in biochemistry, enzymes and plant biology, and be willing to learn structural biology and biophysical techniques.