The University of Helsinki, founded in 1640, is one of the world’s top universities for multidisciplinary research. The university has an international academic community of 40,000 students and staff members. The position is based at the Department of Agricultural Sciences, Viikki campus in Helsinki. Research at the department covers plant secondary metabolism, molecular biology, genomics and breeding, among more traditional topics (http://www.helsinki.fi/agriculturalsciences). Our laboratory is part of the Viikki Plant Science Centre (ViPS) research environment (blogs.helsinki.fi/vips-blog).

The GenoWood research project invites applications for

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER, STILBENES IN SCOTS PINE

The position is full-time and will last for three years (with 4 months’ probation period). The planned starting date of the position is April 2017.

In the project we search for genes causing natural genetic variation in important heartwood traits, specifically extractives of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) relating to decay resistance of wood material (timber). The long term aim of the project is to enhance the supply of high-quality and sustainable materials for mechanical wood industry. The project is part of the Academy of Finland funded BioFuture 2025 consortium “Genomic Selection: Towards more Efficient, Financially Viable and Resilient Wood Production (GenoWood)” with Prof. Teemu Teeri (University of Helsinki), Prof. Katri Kärkkäinen (Luke), Prof. Fred O. Asiegbu (University of Helsinki) and Prof. Outi Savolainen (University of Oulu). Our goal in the consortium is to utilize novel genomic and phenotyping methods and examine the feasibility of conducting genomic selection in Nordic conifer species.

In Scots pine, there is ample genetic variation in the decay resistance of heartwood, which is to a large degree explained by heartwood extractives (total phenolics, mainly stilbenes). Particularly the stilbene content of heartwood shows high heritability. Structural genes encoding enzymes of the stilbene pathway will be the first candidate genes responsible for the heritable variation. We will characterize the polymorphisms in the stilbene synthase gene STS in detail, and expand the analysis to further structural genes of the pathway (pinosylvin O-methyltransferase and the as yet unknown CoA ligase), as well as to regulatory genes of the pathway. Our aim is to find close markers, in essence the causative polymorphisms for the variation, in genes on the pathway to stilbenes in Scots pine.

The methods applied include sampling and sequencing of stilbene pathway genes in pine populations with varying levels of heartwood extractives and decay resistance, and search for regulatory genes for the pathway. Large RNAseq resources are available from the pine heartwood formation zone and they will be expanded. The candidate regulatory genes will be tested in vitro and in planta. These data will then be combined with phenotypic and marker analysis done within the consortium.

We are looking for highly motivated and talented applicants who have skills in the areas of molecular biology, biochemistry, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics. Proficiency in English is essential.

The salary will be based on level 5 of the demands level chart for teaching and research personnel in the salary system of Finnish universities. In addition, a salary component based on personal performance will be paid. The starting salary will be ca. 3 150 €/month.

Please submit your application, together with a motivation letter, CV and list of publications, through the University of Helsinki electronic recruitment system by clicking on Apply Link. Internal applicants (i.e., current employees of the University of Helsinki) must submit their applications through the SAP HR portal. The deadline for applications is 24 March 2017.

Further information on the post is given by Professor Teemu Teeri (teemu.teeri(at)helsinki.fi).

Key references:
Harju, A. M., & Venäläinen, M. (2002). Genetic parameters regarding the resistance of Pinus sylvestris heartwood to decay caused by Coniophora puteana. Scandinavian journal of forest research, 17: 199-205.
Lim, K.-J., Paasela, T., Harju, A., Venäläinen, M., Paulin, L., Auvinen, P., Kärkkäinen, K. and Teeri, T.H. (2016). Developmental changes in Scots pine transcriptome during heartwood formation. Plant physiology, 172: 1403-1417.
Paasela, T., Lim, K.-J., Pietiäinen, M. and Teeri, T.H. (2017). The O-methyltransferase PMT2 mediates methylation of pinosylvin in Scots pine. New Phytologist, in press, doi: 10.1111/nph.14480
Venäläinen, M., Harju, A. M., Kainulainen, P., Viitanen, H., & Nikulainen, H. (2003). Variation in the decay resistance and its relationship with other wood characteristics in old Scots pines. Annals of forest science, 60: 409-417.

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