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1 Doctoral student position
1 Postdoctoral scientist position


are available in the Parniske laboratory in Munich, Germany, to study

The evolution of the nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis

Both will contribute to the larger ongoing project “Evolving Nodules” funded by the European Research Council (ERC) to identify the genetic switches involved in the evolution of nodulation.


Crop production worldwide is sustained through nitrogen fertilizer produced via the energy-demanding Haber-Bosch process. One group of closely related plants evolved to become independent of nitrogen from the soil by engaging in symbiosis with bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen to plant-usable ammonium. These nitrogen-fixing bacteria are hosted within specialized organs, the root nodules. Nodulation evolved several times independently but exclusively in four related orders, the Fabales, Fagales, Cucurbitales and Rosales (FaFaCuRo) based on a putative genetic predisposition to evolve root nodules acquired by a common ancestor of this clade.
The project builds on the underlying idea that the root nodule symbiosis evolved by co-opting preexisting developmental programs. Using a combination of phylogenomic, transcriptomic and genetic approaches, we will systematically investigate and compare the prewired connections between signaling pathways and developmental modules present in non-nodulating and nodulating relatives, to identify components acquired by nodulating plant species.


The Rosaceae represent a particularly attractive family to test evolutionary hypotheses related to nodulation. Most genera of the Rosaceae including economically valuable targets such as apple and strawberry are non-nodulating. A minority of Rosaceae form ancestral, lateral root-related actinorhiza nodules with Frankia actinobacteria. Frankia strains have a very broad host range and can fix nitrogen at ambient oxygen concentrations thus imposing minimal constraints on a host environment suitable for efficient symbiosis. Thus, by retracing small evolutionary steps within the Rosaceae we will take a huge leap towards nitrogen-fertilizer independent crops for sustainable agriculture.
The Parniske laboratory (www.genetik.biologie.uni-muenchen.de) is situated in the Biocenter of the University of Munich (LMU), Germany. The Biocenter is equipped with state of the art instrumentation to carry out molecular, biochemical and cell biological research, and can be conveniently reached by public transport from the city center of Munich.


To apply, please send your application including your curriculum vitae, names of two referees and a motivation letter via email to Martin Parniske (parniske@lmu.de). Please include a referral to this advert in your cover letter.