We are inviting applications for a

Postdoctoral Position (m/f/d) on rational design of synthetic NLR immunoreceptors in plants

The Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) in Cologne, Germany, invites applications for a postdoctoral position in the field of plant-pathogen interactions with a focus on NLR immunoreceptor biochemistry and immune signaling in the group headed by Paul Schulze-Lefert (https://www.mpipz.mpg.de/schulze-lefert). The position is available for an initial period of two years in the context of a DFG-funded research project (SFB 1403), with the possibility of extension.


Plants have evolved an innate immune system to protect themselves from pathogenic microbes. One arm of this immune system relies on intracellular immune sensors, which are encoded by disease resistance genes and trigger immune responses when non-self molecules are detected. These cytoplasmic proteins are typically nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptors (NLRs) and structurally related to innate immune sensors in animals, including humans.

The project

In barley, allelic Mla resistance specificities encode highly sequence-related sensor NLRs, each of which confers race-specific disease resistance upon detection of a matching AVRA effector delivered by the pathogenic powdery mildew fungus Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei (Bgh). Molecular isolation of several Bgh AVRa and cognate Mla genes enabled in vivo functional analysis and verification of
MLA-AVRA –dependent immunity and activation of host cell death (Liu et al., PNAS 2016; Saur et al., eLIFE 2019; Bauer et al., PLoS Pathogens 2021). Recent evidence suggests oligomerization and activation of the MLA receptor through direct association with matching effectors in planta and in vitro. In collaboration with Jijie Chai’s group at MPIPZ (https://www.mpipz.mpg.de/chai), this project aims to biochemically characterize activated MLA complexes and determine their structure by cryo-EM. Structure-based information on receptor complexes will guide the design of synthetic MLA receptors with novel recognition specificities.


In addition to a PhD in protein biochemistry or molecular plant-microbe interactions, experience in structural biology is an advantage but not mandatory. Candidates with a proven track record of original research publications must have the ability to work in a team at the interface between biochemistry and structural biology and should be able to design their own experiments. Very good organizational and communication skills are desirable. Good command of the English language is required.

Payment / Position:

The position is available immediately. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for online interviews. Salary and working hours are in accordance with the funding guidelines of the Max Planck Society for junior scientists. Payment and benefits are according to the German TVöD-Bund.

Application deadline

Applicants are requested to submit a motivation letter and CV (in English as a single pdf file) including the names and affiliations of two referees through the online system, by June 4, 2021.
The Max Planck Society is one of Europe's leading research organizations. In its research laboratories, workshops, libraries, and administration, scientists and researchers perform demanding tasks with a high degree of autonomy and creativity.
The Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research carries out fundamental research on plants using a wide range of methods including molecular genetics, genomics, imaging, computational biology and biochemistry. 

The Max-Planck society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Furthermore, the Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply.

Little Pumpkins
is the child care facility at the MPIPZ providing daycare for children up until 3 years of age.

Website: www.mpipz.mpg.de

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