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Project: A novel approach to probe crosstalk between plant stress response pathways under field conditions

2016-10-01 – 2020-09-30


In the face of world population growth and climatic change, global food security will increasingly depend on our ability to design crops with higher yield and higher tolerance to stress. Unraveling the wiring of plant stress response pathways traditionally involves controlled experimental perturbations that are often rather harsh and unrealistic from a field perspective. Moreover, only a single pathway is usually perturbed, impeding the identification of crosstalk between pathways. Here, a new experimental paradigm to study (a)biotic stress responses in plants is proposed, involving expression profiling and phenotyping of individual wild-type plants grown under field conditions. Recently, it was shown that subtle uncontrolled perturbations of multiple pathways (which occur even in a controlled lab environment) can be more informative from a reverse engineering perspective than traditional controlled perturbations of single pathways. In this research project, the efficacy of this methodology in a field setting will be assessed. Expression profiles and phenotypes of 400 wild-type Arabidopsis plants grown in the field and greenhouse will be recorded, and custom-developed algorithms will be used to reverse engineer crosstalk between stress response pathways and predict their impact on yield-related phenotypes. A select number of predicted stress and yield regulators and pathway interactions will be validated experimentally. 

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