Genetic, molecular and evolutionary analysis of developmental plasticity in nematodes.

Advisor: Ralf Sommer

PhD Program: International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) 'From Molecules to Organisms'
Location: Max Planck Institute for Biology

Project description
A striking feature of novelty in P. pacificus is predatory feeding. P. pacificus forms teeth-like denticles in its mouth, which enable predation on other nematode species in their natural environment. These teeth occur as a dimorphism, representing an example of developmental plasticity (Bento et al, 2010). Recent genetic studies have identified a multigene locus including a developmental switch gene, the eud-1 sulfatase, the nuclear-hormone-receptor nhr-40 and the downstream gene regulatory network (GRN)(Ragsdale et al., 2013, Sieriebriennikov et al., 2018, Sieriebriennikov et al., 2020). Additionally, we are investigating various aspects associated with predatory feeding, i.e. self-recognition mechanisms and social action strategies (Lightfoot et al., 2019; Lightfoot et al., 2021). Current work includes various integrative approaches from (1) detailed mechanistic studies (i.e. genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology), to (2) studying the evolutionary significance of plasticity and associated phenomena (genetic accommodation, genetic canalization, and (3) the role of predatory feeding plasticity in the context of the nematode ecology (Renahan et al., 2021; Renahan and Sommer, 2021). I am interested in curious, highly motivated and enthusiastic students in any area of plasticity related research.

More information on Ralf Sommer and a selection of recent publications can be found on his faculty page.

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Application deadline: 6 February 2022

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