PhD position in a DFG-funded project on “Sequestration of phytochemicals by leaf beetles: Selective transport proteins and their impact on diversification processes in plant-herbivore interactions”

Plant secondary metabolites are key players in this interaction and insects are among the most versatile evolutionary innovators when it comes to disarm chemical plant defenses. Among others, sequestration which includes the uptake, concentration and occasionally the conversion of phytochemicals is a widespread detoxification strategy in insects. The larvae of the leaf beetle taxon Chrysomelina, for example, developed defensive glands in which such plant metabolites are converted, stored and released in case of disturbance. To achieve translocation of phytochemicals, the larvae evolved barriers with various degrees of selectivity. Besides non-selective uptake and excretion, only one selective barrier controls the metabolic diversity in the defensive secretions of juvenile Chrysomelina which, in turn, has an effect on different trophic levels: composition of secretions can be either beneficial for the insect to affiliate enemy and competitor-free space or increase attractiveness of the insects to parasites or predators.

Based on the substantial importance of transport proteins in an ecosystem context, the advertised project aims on the identification and biochemical characterization of transport proteins facilitating selectivity of phytochemical sequestration in the defensive glands of juvenile Chrysomelina and on the identification of structural elements and amino acids crucial for selectivity. Using the Chrysomelina as a model system, the following techniques will be carried out: proteomics of membrane proteins, RNAi, localization studies, functional characterization of heterologous expressed transporters, mutagenesis, and phylogenetic analyses.

We are seeking strongly motivated and highly qualified candidates having profound skills in biochemistry, molecular biology and interest for analytics. A good knowledge of English is mandatory. We offer an international, interdisciplinary, and technically state of the art environment where you can continually add to your skills through involvement in different lines of research.

Female applicants and disabled candidates who are equally qualified will receive preference. The position is available from 01.11.2014 or earlier.

Appropriate candidates should send their application (preferred by email) including a CV, list of qualifications and research interests, names, email-addresses of 2 references who have first-hand knowledge of your research skills till 05.10.2014 to:

Dr. Antje Burse
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Department of Bioorganic Chemistry
Hans-Knöll-Str. 8
D-07745 Jena

E-mail: aburse [at] ice.mpg.de