Project description

Soybean rust and corn smut are plant pests caused by the fungal pathogens Phakopsora pachyrhizi and Ustilago maydis, which lead to great economic losses each year from smaller crop yields. Companies in the fungicide industry are hence interested in developing new active compounds to combat these diseases.

Development of novel fungicides requires thorough mode of action studies, providing information how these compounds affect pathogens. While standard procedures have been established for a broad range of fungi, transferring them to P. pachyrhizi is not easily possible. Unlike many other fungal pathogens, P. pachyrhizi is an obligate biotroph fungus which cannot grow properly without its host, making laboratory experiments challenging. During my internship I experimented with different culturing techniques to keep the fungus alive in the laboratory. In addition, I developed fluorescence staining methods to facilitate the observation of cell structures after fungicide treatment.

In contrast to P. pachyrhiziU. maydis can be easily cultivated on artificial media in the laboratory. Nevertheless, establishing new methods to discover novel targets for fungicides in this fungus is also of great importance. To this end I developed a new flow cytometry procedure to detect aberrations in cell cycle in U. maydis caused by compound treatment. 

Affiliation: Leiden University, The Netherlands & BASF Agricultural Center, APR/FM Mode of Action, Limburgerhof, Germany

Supervisors: Prof. Kees van den Hondel & Dr. Isabella Siepe

Skills: Cell biology • Cell culturing • Mode of action assays • Fluorescence microscopy • Flow cytometry