Byrt Group – Engineering plant membrane proteins and solute transport to increase yield security

Our crop yields are limited by osmotic stresses, which often occur as a result of drought and salinity. There is potential for us to be able to improve crop osmotic stress tolerance by manipulating the function of aquaporins. Aquaporins are membrane intrinsic proteins, which are renowned for functioning as water channels. Our team discovered that a subset of plant aquaporins can switch between functioning as water channels and functioning as channels that are permeable to salt ions. We have identified aquaporin post-translational modifications that function like “molecular switches”, regulating the ion and water channel activity of dual ion:water aquaporins. We are working on translating these discoveries into engineering strategies to increase crop tolerance to salinity and drought, and to advance water filtration technology.

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Accelerating the water space-race

Story | Monday 16 September 2019
Dr Caitlin Byrt explores strategies for advancing water filtration.

Caitlin Byrt

Story | Thursday 7 March 2019
To create a future you can look forward to we need to upgrade our crop plant resources. Upgrading crops to improve productivity and adapt to environmental stresses, such as extreme climatic conditions, is key to our future food security and quality of life.