Líneas de Investigación actuales:
IP: Lynne Yenush y JM Mulet
IP: JM Mulet
IP: Lynne Yenush y JM Mulet
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:
Ion homeostasis is a dynamic process and a fundamental requirement for all organisms. Many different minerals are required for essential biochemical processes, but the accumulation of these elements is toxic. Thus, all living organisms have developed efficient systems to acquire and store these elements and robust mechanisms to maintain homeostatic concentrations to avoid toxicity and to respond to environmental changes.
Potassium is a key monovalent cation necessary for multiple aspects of cell growth and survival, for example, compensation of negative charges of macromolecules, maintenance of electroneutrality, cell turgor and volume, enzyme activity, protein synthesis, and maintenance of proper membrane potential and intracellular pH. The long-term, general goal of our research group is to generate new knowledge regarding the regulation of potassium transporters from both plants and yeast which may be applied in future in biotechnological approaches to improve plant drought tolerance.
We are currently undertaking two major research endeavors. One is centered on basic science and the generation of new knowledge and the other is more applied and carried out in collaboration with an industry partner. Both are related to studies of the molecular mechanisms involved in plant stress responses, especially abiotic stress. Our research interests can be summarized as follows:
In plants, apart from the basic, general physiological functions listed above for potassium at the cellular level, this cation also plays a key role at the whole plant level, as it is involved in important processes such as stomatal aperture that controls transpirational water loss and plant desiccation. Inward rectifying channels are responsible for potassium influx into guard cells and play a key role in stomatal opening. KAT1, and its close homologue KAT2, are the main inward rectifying channels expressed in guard cells. Our current project is focused on the characterization 14 proteins that we have identified in a Split-Ubiquitin protein-protein interaction screen searching for KAT1 potassium channel interactors from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.
We are taking several biochemical and genetic approaches to confirm these interactors and their effect on KAT1 activity in plants. The identification of physiologically relevant regulators of K+ channels will aid in the design of approaches that may impact both drought tolerance and pathogen susceptibility since these pores are responsible for CO2 uptake and transpirational water loss and are the point of entry for certain pathogens.
Applied science with industry partners:
Our second major focus, initiated in 2018 in collaboration with the SAKATA company, is to analyze the proteomic and metabolomic profiles of different broccoli cultivars with varied tolerance to different abiotic stresses (drought and salinity). The aim is to identify proteins and/or metabolites with differential accumulation that can be used to predict the performance of uncharacterized cultivars in adverse field conditions. As a complementary approach, we will take advantage of our expertise using the baker’s yeast model system to overexpress genes from a tolerant broccoli cultivar to identify genes that are able to confer tolerance to salt and drought stress. Using these approaches, we hope to provide SAKATA with a battery of tools that can be used both for cultivar selection and breeding programs.
We have also developed a system for a fast and cheap evaluation of natural extracts with the potential to be used as biostimulants, based on the use of the model systems Arabidopsis thaliana and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We have used this system to evaluate products provided by different companies and to design novel formulates. Currently, in collaboration with the company CALDIC, we are deciphering the molecular basis of the abiotic stress tolerance conferred by the novel formulations of biostimulants, and performing field tests to evaluate its efficiency for different crops.