PlantStressLab - STRItools

Strigolactones (SLs) are newly identified carotenoid-derived plant hormones that have a central role in plant development and resistance to stress - namely pathogen attack, lack of water and nutrients. STRItools aims at exploiting fine knowledge on the perception mechanism of SLs to deliver smart molecular tools to improve crop yield and resistance under stress. These tools will be 1) reporter lines to visualize and quantify SL dynamics at the single-cell level or in high-throughput platforms; 2) new small molecules endowed with SL-like or especially SL-inhibitory activity, rationally designed by a ligand-based in silico approach. The first set of deliverables will be based on the recently acquired notion that the SL receptor protein and one of the first downstream targets of signalling (SMXL proteins) are quickly degraded following SL perception. Therefore, when tagged with fluorescent proteins, they can be visualized, quantified and inversely correlated to SL activity. The second set will exploit drug-design techniques to identify completely new, non-SL-related molecular scaffolds acting as positive or negative modulators of SL signalling. Both sets of deliverables will be exploited, in the next steps of project development, to generate a better understanding of SL dynamics and functions under stress and identify genetic markers associated with the desired SL-related trait. They will also be used to steer SL metabolism for the benefit of yield and stress resistance, by revising consolidated crop managing techniques (grafting and chemical treatment with plant growth regulators) in light of the new knowledge. This will be of assistance to breeding programmes and will help diversifying and optimising crop management at different stages of plant development and under stress.

Duration: 30 months (July 2015-December 2017)

Funding agency: Compagnia di S. Paolo (Progetti di Ateneo 2014)