James Bradley

Discovery and analysis of effector genes in the parasitic weed S. asiatica; a multi-faceted genomics approach

Graduated from The University of Sheffield in 2015 with an MBiolSci degree in Biology.

During my undergraduate degree I became interested in a number of different aspects of biological sciences, including symbiotic interactions, biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. These three interests underpinned my reasons for choosing to take on this project working with the parasitic weed Striga asiatica.

S. asiatica is a weedy parasitic plant that attaches to the roots of key cereal crops in Africa and Asia. It is particularly troublesome for small-scale subsistence farmers, whom lack the resources needed to combat this parasite.

The project aims to use a range of approaches, including genomics and bioinformatics, to identify novel effector genes; which are thought to be used by S. asiatica to successfully parasitize its host. The overarching goal is to increase the understanding of the molecular basis of virulence in this parasite.

Parasitic plants are plants that rely entirely or partly on another plant in order to survive and reproduce. In Africa, two parasitic plants causing particularly high levels of damage to cereal crops are Striga hermonthica and Striga asiatica. Both of which attach to the roots of their host plant and cause massive reductions in yield. The development of resistant cultivars is seen as an important part of the strategy to tackle these parasites, but progress has been hampered, in part, by a lack of understanding of the molecular genetic basis of the interaction between the host and parasite. To this end, it is important to better understand the molecular basis of resistance in the host and of virulence in the parasite.