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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Highlighted reading:

McGaughey, Samantha A., Jiaen Qiu, Stephen D. Tyerman, and Caitlin S. Byrt. "Regulating root aquaporin function in response to changes in salinity." Annual Plant Reviews online (2018): 1-36.
Byrt, C.S., Zhao, M., Kourghi, M., Bose, J., Henderson, S.W., Qiu, J., Gilliham, M., Schultz, C., Schwarz, M., Ramesh, S.A., Yool, A. and Tyerman, S.D., 2017. Non‐selective cation channel activity of aquaporin AtPIP2; 1 regulated by Ca2+ and pH. Plant, cell & environment, 40(6), pp.802-815.

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Caitlin Byrt

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.

Updated:  19 November 2019/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB