KU Leuven

Postdoctoral researcher on plant immunity priming by bacterial cyclic lipopeptides

2024-04-30 (Europe/Brussels)
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We have secured FNRS/FWO funding for a postdoctoral researcher as part of a larger collaborative project on plant immunity priming within the group of Prof. Barbara De Coninck (KU Leuven), in collaboration with Dr. Marc Ongena (ULiège). The Plant Health and Protection (PHP) lab of Prof. Barbara De Coninck (www.kuleuven.be/phplab) conducts fundamental research on plant-microbe interactions. We implement a variety of microscopic, molecular and omics approaches to study plant beneficial micro-organisms and their corresponding elicitors trigger immune responses in the plant. The MiPI lab of Dr. Marc Ongena (www.terra.uliege.be), investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying the biocontrol potential of plant-associated bacteria, which includes the ability to trigger systemic resistance via their so-called bioactive secondary metabolites. For this project, we are looking for a postdoctoral researcher to study how the cyclic lipopeptide, surfactin, produced by the beneficial microorganism Bacillus velezensis triggers induced resistance in plants.
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Biopesticides based on plant-beneficial bacteria (PBB) are an important alternative tool for crop protection. These PBB exert their protective effect against diseases through direct antagonism or via the stimulation of “induced systemic resistance” (IR) in the plant. IR leads to a more rapid and robust defense response activation in the plant upon pathogen infection. The IR phenotype triggered by PBB is a powerful phenomenon of high interest to be implemented in the crop protection toolbox. However, its molecular basis is still poorly understood. The MiPl previously identified the cyclic lipopeptide surfactin, produced by the PBB Bacillus velezensis, as elicitor of IR. Interestingly, we showed that perception of surfactin at the plant cell plasma membrane relies on a unique process, which integrates docking into specific lipid nanodomains and mechano-sensing and induces atypical early immune events. This phenomenon goes beyond the paradigm of receptor-dependent perception of microbes in Pattern-Triggered Immunity and represents a new aspect of plant-bacteria molecular interactions (manuscript in review, see preprint at: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.07.04.547613v2).

Based on the background information collected in the labs of Prof. De Coninck and Dr. Ongena, we suspect cell-type dependent responsiveness of roots upon surfactin treatment. In this project we will investigate the spatiotemporal gene expression reprogramming upon surfactin treatment via single-cell RNA-seq. Our objective is to trace the trajectory of immune events from the elicited roots to the leaves and identify signaling pathways and key events leading to systemicity of the defense response.


You are a motivated scientist who holds a PhD in plant molecular biology with a strong bio-informatics background. You have affinity for single-cell omics, and want to take up a new challenging project, which requires you to be dedicated and highly ambitious. Additional expertise in microscopy and plant-pathogen interactions is a plus, but not a must.  You have excellent English communication skills and have guided (master) students and/or technicians.

Furthermore, the profiles can match the following personal characteristics: 

  • You are a team-player nurturing a collaborative and supportive research environment
  • You are a critical thinker and can propose innovative solutions
  • You are pro-active in establishing contacts with experts to solve problems and to communicate with other members of the different team(s)
  • You aspire high-impact scientific output
  • You pay attention to details
  • You have a strong sense of responsibility
  • You have a no-nonsense can-do attitude
  • You maintain the upmost standards of scientific integrity



We offer you a full-time postdoctoral position for 3 years (1 year extendable with 2 years after a positive evaluation) at a top-ranked multidisciplinary university. You will be embedded in the group of Prof. Barbara De Coninck and have one additional supervisor (Dr. Marc Ongena). We will both support you to successfully obtain excellent results and publish your findings in high-impact journals. The Crop Biotechnics division, to which the PHP lab belongs, offers a multidisciplinary, highly stimulating and supporting international environment. You will get ample opportunities to acquire new skills and learn new techniques to further develop your scientific career. You will have opportunities to participate at national and international scientific conferences, and establish your own network, to strengthen your own profile and the team. You will also have possibilities to gain experience in transferrable skills. Earliest start date: June 1st, 2024


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Barbara De Coninck, tel.: +32 16 37 66 26, mail: barbara.deconinck@kuleuven.be.

KU Leuven strives for an inclusive, respectful and socially safe environment. We embrace diversity among individuals and groups as an asset. Open dialogue and differences in perspective are essential for an ambitious research and educational environment. In our commitment to equal opportunity, we recognize the consequences of historical inequalities. We do not accept any form of discrimination based on, but not limited to, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, ethnic or national background, skin colour, religious and philosophical diversity, neurodivergence, employment disability, health, or socioeconomic status. For questions about accessibility or support offered, we are happy to assist you at this email address.

Informatie over de vacature

Postdoctoral researcher on plant immunity priming by bacterial cyclic lipopeptides
Oude Markt 13 Leuven, België
Uiterste sollicitatiedatum
2024-04-30 23:59 (Europe/Brussels)
2024-04-30 23:59 (CET)
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Over de werkgever

KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

De pagina van de werkgever bekijken

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