Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
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Plant Molecular Biology

Dr. Sundas Batool

Dr. Sundas Batool
Dr. Sundas Batool

Plants are constantly exposed to changes in their environment such as day/night cycles, high and low temperature or water deficit. In contrast to animals plants have to deal with these stress factors on site and cannot avoid or escape them. These abiotic stress factors strongly impair growth of plants and yield in natural as well as agricultural ecosystems. During evolution special genetic and cellular mechanisms have developed that help plants to cope with stress. Understanding these mechanisms is the basis for crop improvement through breeding and biotechnology. The way towards progress in stress physiology of plants is the combination of research on molecular cell biology and genetics of model plants (e.g. Arabidopsis thaliana) with applied traits of economically relevant crops (e.g. maize). A common denominator of many abiotic stress factors is the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These arise as metabolic byproducts or are triggered by responses in plan cells. They can cause damage, if they are not scavenged, but they can also convey signals that activate gene responses to mediate adaptive processes against stress factors. A major player in this dual system is glutathione, a tripeptide with reductive properties that are based on the cysteine moiety of the molecule. Production of ROS during stress results in oxidation and consumption of glutathione. It is replaced by de novo synthesis that requires cysteine. Cysteine synthesis, in turn, requires enhanced activity of assimilatory sulfate reduction and uptake of sulfate. The investigation of this cascade of events from stress trigger to gene-expression based response of metabolism will be focused in this project. Starting point will be the response of maize plants to drought and the transfer of these processes to Arabidopsis. Gene expression and metabolite profiles during drought stress will be determined and combined with flux analyses of the sulfate assimilation pathway and oxidative status of stressed cells. This will reveal the sequence of responses after onset of drought and identify limiting and promoting processes towards stress resistance.

 


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