PhD Student

Last application date
Apr 01, 2020 16:25
LA21 - Department of Plants and Crops
Employment category
Doctoral fellow
Limited duration
master in Biology, Bioscience Engineering, Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Bio-informatics
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

The two-spotted spider mite T. urticae (Arthropoda: Chelicerata) is a serious pest in agriculture. It feeds on an exceptional broad host range (over 1,100 different plant species) and is notorious for developing pesticide resistance. The molecular mechanisms underlying spider mite adaptation to xenobiotic compounds (pesticides and plant defense molecules) has been untangled to some extent. However, reliable tools for genome editing that can provide proof of principle for the involvement of genes and mutations in spider mite adaptation are currently non-existent. CRISPR/Cas9 has revolutionized functional genetic work in many organisms but, although straightforward for many model and non-model arthropods, has never been efficient in chelicerates, including spiders, scorpions and spider mites. Very recently, we have shown that the Cas9-sgRNA complex could be delivered into T. urticae oocytes after injection of T. urticae females, circumventing traditional embryo injections, but the observed CRISPR-Cas9 efficiency was very low. In this project, we want to significantly improve this efficiency and design a Cas9 delivery system, based on receptor-mediated ovary transduction (ReMOT, see, tailored to spider mites. The final aim is to develop this unique tool for genome editing and use it to provide proof of principle for the involvement of key factors in adaptation in this species.

Relevant publications:

Dermauw, W., Jonckheere, W., Riga, M., Livadaras, I., Vontas, J., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2019). Targeted mutagenesis using CRISPR-Cas9 in the chelicerate herbivore Tetranychus urticae. bioRxiv.

Wybouw, N., Kosterlitz, O., Kurlovs, A. H., Bajda, S., Greenhalgh, R., Snoeck, S., ...Van Leeuwen, T. & Clark, R. M. (2019). Long-term population studies uncover the genome structure and genetic basis of xenobiotic and host plant adaptation in the herbivore Tetranychus urticae. Genetics, 211(4), 1409-1427.

Wybouw, N., Dermauw, W., Tirry, L., Stevens, C., Grbić, M., Feyereisen, R., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2014). A gene horizontally transferred from bacteria protects arthropods from host plant cyanide poisoning.Elife, 3, e02365.

Snoeck, S., Kurlovs, A. H., Bajda, S., Feyereisen, R., Greenhalgh, R., Villacis-Perez, E., ... & Van Leeuwen, T. (2019). High-resolution QTL mapping in Tetranychus urticae reveals acaricide-specific responses and common target-site resistance after selection by different METI-I acaricides. Insect biochemistry and molecular biology, 110, 19-33.!

Profile of the candidate

As a candidate, you have/are:

  •  a MSc degree in Biology, Bioscience Engineering, Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Bio-informatics or equivalent (or will have this degree at the beginning of the project); related degrees may be considered but only when sufficient background in molecular biology and bioinformatics can be clearly demonstrated
  •  well acquainted with molecular biology and/or bioinformatics
  •  a drive to answer biological questions
  •  an analytical, critical and independent attitude
  •  excellent skills for time management and the ability to meet objectives within set deadlines.
  •  demonstrated ability to work efficiently and with minimum supervision.
  •  proficient in English, both written and oral

Ideally, you have a strong interest or experience in/with genetic transformation of arthropods, protein expression or analysis of sequencing data. We provide an open and stimulating working environment, in which teamwork, initiative, a critical mindset and originality are highly appreciated. We offer a position for 1 year, which will normally be extended to 4 years in case of a positive evaluation.

How to apply

Interested candidates should submit their application before April 1st 2020 to Leen Dierick (). The application should contain a motivation letter and a curriculum vitae including educational qualifications, employment history if applicable, research interests, and the names and contact details of two referees. The intended starting date is between 1st of May and 10th of July.