Plant Stress Biology

Calcium signaling is important for stress response

One abiotic stress that can have dramatic effects on plant survival is reduction in oxygen availability, be it from their own metabolic activities in densely packed tissues or from the vagaries of the surroundings such as soil compaction, intense microorganism activity, seasonal flooding, encasement in ice, excess rainfall, and even agriculturally practiced submergence related to cultivation or irrigation.

Surviving these conditions requires the coupling of an oxygen sensing capacity to a rapid response system that can coordinate energy and carbohydrate metabolism to: (1) deal with the impending crisis of a cellular energy deficit and (2) elicit adaptive growth responses when necessary to allow for long-term survival. With a few notable exceptions, our current understanding of this sensory/response system is incomplete, especially at the level of the cellular events that signal the adaptive response.

Therefore, we are seeking to more fully characterize the early events that trigger, coordinate and regulate plant responses to low oxygen availability.We are using a combination of computer-based imaging and molecular genetics to characterize the spatial and temporal relationship between reduced oxygen availability and, Ca2+, pH, ROS and ATP/ADP signaling in plants. We are also using bioinformatics and transcriptional profiling to select asphyxia resistant mutants. Interestingly the genes we identified also are involved in plant response to other agricultural stresses such as pathogen blights and accumulation of salts.

The Gilroy Lab has identified mechanism to tune plant response to environmental stress such as flooding, drought and oxygen availability (Anoxia, Hypoxia).

Photo of dead plants and anoxia-resistant mutants

Below: a selection of artistic impression presenting ideas about how future agro-ecosystems may look

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