PS Webinar Series- PhD Exit Seminar : From cradle to grave: Regulation of plant stress responses through RNA metabolism

Abstract - As the intermediary between DNA and proteins, RNA has a major regulatory role in gene expression. Cellular control of transcription, translation and decay is used to fine tune the pool of available mRNAs and the production of their associated proteins. For plants, this regulation is particularly important during stress responses, given their inability to physically escape potentially harmful conditions; plants must allocate resources to the production of stress responsive transcripts and proteins to reduce cellular damage and promote recovery. In my thesis, I have examined the interaction between RNA metabolism and overall gene expression, including transcription and translation, during periods of abiotic stress in plants. Transcription of stress-responsive genes in drought tolerant mutants was found to be caused by transcriptional read-through from upstream genes, a consequence of inhibited RNA decay in the nucleus. Separately, the stability of stress-induced transcripts was observed to be dynamically modulated during high light stress, in preparation for transcriptome resetting during recovery. The interaction between these changes in RNA stability and translation was also explored, revealing a comparatively static translatome during high light. These results further our understanding of how plants regulate gene expression during and following abiotic stress, with implications for future crop development.

Biography - I studied my undergraduate degree (B. Genetics) at ANU from 2013, joining the Pogson lab for an undergraduate research program in 2015. This was followed by Honours the following year, before commencing my PhD in 2017. Across these projects, I have focused primarily on the way plants modulate gene expression in response to stress, a topic that has significant implications for food security in Australia now and in the future.