A BBSRC Future Leader Fellow at The Sainsbury Laboratory

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Dr Jacqueline MonaghanDr Jacqueline Monaghan has been awarded a BBSRC Anniversary Future Leaders Fellowship to work in the group of Prof. Cyril Zipfel at The Sainsbury Laboratory. The Fellowship, worth up to £300,000, will allow her to establish her own independent line of research within the Zipfel laboratory.

Dr Jacqueline Monaghan’s project deals with understanding how plants regulate immune responses and maintain cellular homeostasis. Fighting infection requires energy that would be otherwise spent on growth. This compromises the plant’s fitness - and, in the case of commercial crops, their nutritional and economic value.

Working with the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, Dr Jacqueline Monaghan will investigate key host proteins that help the plant fight pathogens. Her previous research in the Zipfel laboratory, where she has worked for the last four years, investigated regulators of a key a key immune component (the kinase BIK1), which triggers various responses in the plant upon pathogen detection. She identified a protein (the kinase CPK28) that regulates BIK1 turnover in the cell, and thus contributes to immune homeostasis.

The Fellowship will now allow her to investigate the detailed mechanisms that regulate both BIK1 and CPK28, and thus to understand how plants appropriately balance their immune responses.

This work will form a basis for improving disease management in crops, with the potential to develop varieties which can fight infection with less of a compromise on yield.

Dr Jacqueline Monaghan said: “This fellowship will enable me to pursue my research interests in plant immune homeostasis. It offers me the unique opportunity to run my own multi-disciplinary research program, establish international collaborations, and gain leadership skills. Knowledge gained from this project will advance our understanding of how plants balance immune signaling with normal growth and development, which can be used to develop sustainable solutions to the diseases that affect our crops.”

Prof. Cyril Zipfel (Senior Group Leader and Head of The Sainsbury Laboratory) said: “I am extremely happy that Jacqueline was awarded the new competitive BBSRC Anniversary Future Leaders Fellowship to continue her work on plant immune signaling homeostasis. This will enable a young promising scientist to transition towards independence and to become a successful research leader in the near future.”