The problem: Improving abiotic stress tolerance in crops through genetic approaches is a time-consuming process even for one species, and the entire process needs to be repeated for every crop species of interest. Furthermore, the enhanced stress tolerance may come at a cost of growth or yield penalties due to the constitutive activation of stress response pathways which suppress growth.
The goal: We aim to turbocharge crop stress tolerance enhancement by employing a high-throughput chemical biology strategy. Bioactive compounds targeting evolutionarily conserved stress response proteins should be able to enhance abiotic stress tolerance in diverse crop species when applied to their leaves or roots, thereby bypassing the requirement for species-by-species breeding. These compounds will also serve as novel tools in fundamental plant research, by enabling specific control of the pathways of interest.
This project will involve:
- systematic screening and design of novel chemical compounds targeting selected plant proteins;
- structure-function analysis of the compounds and their target proteins
- rational design of potent, bioactive compounds
- in silico, in vitro and in vivo characterisation of identified compounds