PS Seminar Series- PhD Exit Seminar - Characterising Tobacco Aquaporins: towards engineering improved photosynthesis and plant performance

Abstract - “Aquaporins (AQP) are increasingly being studied as genetic engineering targets to develop higher yielding and more resilient crops. AQPs constitute a major family of membrane spanning channel proteins, selectively transporting a range of solutes essential for plant processes, including water relations, growth and development, stress responses, root nutrient uptake, and photosynthesis. Plant AQPs are comprised of five major subfamilies that differ in tissue specificity, subcellular localisation and substrate specificity. Of particular interest are aquaporins in the Plasma membrane Intrinsic Proteins (PIP) subfamily, some of which have been shown to enhance membrane permeability to CO2 and subsequently photosynthetic efficiency. The ability to manipulate aquaporins towards improving plant productivity is reliant on expanding our insight into their diversity and functional roles.

My PhD research project aimed to characterise the AQP family in Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), a popular model system capable of scaling from the laboratory to the field and closely related to several major economic crops (e.g. tomato and potato). My seminar will address the intricacies of the tobacco AQP family, including the evolutionary history of this protein family in a newly emerged polyploid species and their elucidated tissue specificities and subcellular localisations. I will present functional characterisation results of a diverse set of AQP isoforms, testing for permeability of a range of substrates, uncovering complexities and functional versatility of AQPs. Towards enhancing photosynthesis, I will present results of our in planta functional characterisation of several PIP AQPs which were predicted to facilitate CO2 diffusion in plants.”

Biography -  PhD student in John Evans Group, RSB

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