Being sessile, plant are exposed to a range of stresses, of both abiotic and biotic origin, during the course of their life, and often simultaneously. To cope with this, they have evolved mechanisms for developmental plasticity and coordination of developmental and stress response pathways. Plants monitor their environment through cell surface associated proteins that perceive and relay the signals to intracellular compartments through activation of kinase signalling cascades that modulate transcriptional activity through phosphorylation/de-phosphorylation of transcription factors, resulting in adaptive reprogramming.
There is mounting evidence for the existence of shared molecular components between abiotic and biotic stress signalling pathways and also endogenous developmental pathways. In a genome-wide study of drought signalling in wheat, we uncovered a gene family previously only known for its involvement in defence against pathogens, and showed it also participates to the regulation of root development. We are investigating how this is achieved, at the genetic and physiological levels.
The purpose is to identify novel core molecular modules that coordinate responses to diverse endogenous and exogenous stimuli, and evaluate their potential to improve plant performance in unhospitable environments.
Projects are available, mostly in Arabidopsis, using a range of mutants and transgenic lines available in the Lab, and a range of techniques (molecular and cell biology, physiology and biochemistry, microscopy). There is also possibility of a project based on the homologous gene family in barley, testing its involvement in the regulation of responses to plant attacks by biotic agents (powdery mildew), and abiotic stress (wounding and mechanical stress).
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