PlantStressLab - PhD students
The aim of my PhD project is to investigate the molecular and physiological response of crop plants during drought stress and the recovery period using tomato as model. The general aim is to find new markers of drought stress resilience and I am particularly focused in elucidating the role of ORA47, a transcription factor that might repress strigolactone and ABA biosynthetic gene expression under well-watered conditions.
Strigolactones (SLs) are hormones produced in the roots and released into the soil. Their chemical lability and the low-volume radical productions hinder the prospect of using SLs as bioactive molecules at the pharmaceutical level and as biostimulants. The main objectives of my PhD project are the refinement of a process to extract SLs from exudates obtained from agro-industrial wastes and the enhancement of endogenous production of SLs in the roots by CRISPR protoplasts editing. SLs-enriched extracts will be used as biostimulants, evaluating the effects on stress response and flowering.
My research is focused on the understanding of drought resistance in woody plants. The aim is to identify possible pathways to obtain plants with a superior adaptation to this abiotic stress by observing various biochemical, genetic and physiological traits during either fast or slow-developing drought . Of particular interest for my project is the ability of some woody plants to recover embolized vessels function, a mechanism guided by sugar accumulation and pH reduction with a strong influence on the plant fitness in a changing climate.
Tomato accumulates secondary bio-based compounds which can be extracted from plant wastes and exploited in an optic of circular economy. Among them, steroidal glycoalkaloids (SGAs) are of great scientific and applicative interest, both for their role in plant defence against pathogens and for their useful properties for human health. The main objectives of my phD project are the refinement of a process to extract SGAs from plant wastes, and the enhancement of SGA accumulation mainly in tomato green tissues, through a genetic approach (Crispr/Cas editing), and the study of the influence of abiotic stresses on their synthesis, with a particular focus on strigolactones and selected miPEPs as putative mediators.
My research focusses on the effects of karrikins on nutrient use efficiency in tomato, within the EU-China innovation action ECONUTRI. My goal is not only to add to the toolbox of management practices available to growers, but also to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind karrikin-induced changes to nutrient uptake and assimilation, as well as plant development and acclimation to stress.
Shuo (Amber) Liang
My project will reveal signalling components that are important for strigolactone effects on stress acclimation in tomato. Namely, I will focus on signalling module(s) acting in the guard cells under drought, and on strigolactone-dependent mobile signals of stress.
The purpose of my research is to understand how strigolactones participate in the drought-stress memory mechanism using tomato plant as model. The main objective is to identify and characterise strigolactone-dependent "memory miRNAs" and their function in the stress responses. In addition, the epigenetic pattern of the genomic loci of these candidates will be also analysed to assess a possible strigolactone-dependent epigenetic regulation of their activity. The increased knowledge on this topic will provide useful tools to better understand the strategies plants adopt to cope with repeated drought events.