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SWEETMUNITY: Deciphering the structural and molecular bases of glycans perception by the innate immune systems of plants and mammals: from glycans recognition to applications for specific modulation of immune responses

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Research Project / Research Group Description

Plants and animals have evolutionary developed a repertoire of monitoring systems to sense carbohydrate-based structures (glycans) derived either from the cell walls of microorganisms (non-self-glycans) they are exposed to, or from glycan self-structures that are released from plant cell walls or animal extracellular matrixes upon tissue damaged caused by pathogens or injury. These non-self and self-glycan ligands (Pathogen- and Damaged Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs/DAMPs), respectively) are perceived by specific plasma-membrane anchored receptors (e.g. Toll-like Receptors (TLRs) from mammals or Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs) from plants), that upon binding trigger immune responses leading to disease resistance or anti-inflammatory responses. Our current understanding of the structural and molecular bases of glycans recognition by TLRs/PRRs is very scarce. In this project we intend to develop computational methods based on molecular dynamics for prediction of specific receptor-glycan pairs interactions, and to characterize the bases of this receptor/glycan recognition by combining in silico, in vitro and in vivo approaches. The results of these project will provide unprecedented structural data on glycan/receptor recognition and the bases for the rational design of novel glycan-based drugs/biologicals (glycol-mimetics) that will be more efficient in the activation of the immunes systems of mammals and plants (crops), contributing to the generation of novel immunotherapies for mammals and to develop a more sustainable agricultural. The Group of Dr. Molina is internationally recognized by its contributions to the characterization of cell walls (plant and microorganisms) function in the regulation of plant/crops immunity. This group has identified, patented and commercialized several glycoligands that regulate crop protection. Dr. Molina is co-founder of the spin-off enterprise Plant Response Biotech SL.

Job position description

The PhD student will integrate in a multidisciplinary group with expertise in different aspects of plant immunity and crop resistance to pathogens (see group web site link). The group has several international recognized collaborators that will contribute to the development of this very ambitious project. The Molina group is seeking for a very motivated PhD student that could have either expertise in computational structural biology/bioinformatics or in molecular biology/biotechnology. In the first case, the objective will be to develop an in silico computational structural model based on molecular dynamics for the analysis of Receptor/glycoligand binding predictions. In the second case of profile (expertise in molecular biology/biotechnology) the aim of the PhD student will be to use molecular, biochemical and genetic approaches (e.g. Arabidopsis mutant screenings) to identify genes encoding PRRs perceiving glycoligands (already characterized or to be identify in the frame of the project) and their mode of action and potential activity in crops. In plants (e.g. Arabidopsis) there are more than 600 genes encoding putative Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs) that are involved in the perception of non-self and self-glycan ligands (Pathogen- and Damaged Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs/DAMPs). We have estimated that more than 55% of this PRRs might bind glycans, but just a few of them have recognized glycoligand associated. This project represents a unique opportunity to identify novel glycolligands that could be used for enhancing mammal immune system and crop protection. The PhD student will have the opportunity to interact with several collaborators of Dr. Molina group with expertise in mammal immunity regulated by glycoligands, in silico synthesis of glycoligands, and structural biology of PRRs (see additional web sites). The PhD will be integrated in a group with a very activity of Translational Biology an innovation (see additional web sites).

GROUP LEADER: Prof. Antonio Molina Fernández

Plant Innate Immunity and Resistance to Necrotrophic Fungi (Research Group at CBGP (UPM-INIA)

Procedencia EURAXESS
País España
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