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Towards a greener economy: Analyzing gibberellin pathway components at the molecular level to improve the sustainability and ecological impact of tree biomass production

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Research Project / Research Group Description

The aim of this Research project is to manipulate gibberellins (GAs) action in a key crop tree to enhance growth and reduce the effects of abiotic stress. Wood is the largest global contributor to the current biomass supply and hence a keystone source of renewable energy. Using dedicated tree plantations for this purpose is on the rise (see Forest Resources Assessment 2015-2020, at Biomass production essentially depends on vegetative growth, which is mainly regulated by GAs, plant hormones known to be affected by developmental and environmental cues. Studies with herbaceous models and crops indicate that under unfavorable conditions a reduction of GA levels and signaling reduces plant growth and enhance stress tolerance. Our initial results suggest that growth regulation by GA is more complex in trees. To verify this notion and understand better the underlying mechanisms, we propose a PhD research line to characterize the physiological and molecular events that integrate GA-mediated growth and stress responses in Populus. Populus is a major tree model system and many genetic and biotechnological tools are available. Moreover, poplars have economic interest and are increasingly relevant for ecosystem restoration and remediation. Thus, the results obtained here have a wide applied potential.

The Research Project will be carried out under a codirection between the labs of Dr. Luis Oñate-Sánchez and Dr. Luis Gómez, both at CBGP, in the frame of a recently awarded grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science (PID2019-109154RB-I00, 2020-2023). The student will join the PhD program ¨Biotechnology and Genetic resources in plants and associated microorganisms” (official excellence award; 2011-0295), which aims at applying modern molecular tools to agroforestry problems and crop improvement. This program will provide a comprehensive training and offer academic activities. UPM has specific funding for short stays of PhD students in international laboratories.

Job position description

In short, the candidate is expected to participate in the characterization and maintenance of poplar lines with altered GA regulation already obtained by the group. The results will provide insight into the convenience of generating additional lines to test relevant hypothesis regarding biomass production. The candidate will compare the growth and stress tolerance of different lines and controls, subjected mainly to drought and heat stress treatments. These phenotypic measurements under greenhouse conditions are aimed at providing a detailed assessment of the biotechnological value of GA manipulation. Different amounts of bioactive GAs are expected among the various lines compared, due to differences in gene expression levels. In a later stage of the project, molecular signatures will be analyzed by looking at changes in transcriptomes and GA-related interactomes as well as transient expression studies. Relevant findings will be further studied at a molecular level using structural biology tools and heterologous expression to understand proteinprotein interactions and key signaling events at a fundamental level. We expect that theresulting findings shed new light on GA mechanisms that have not been previously described in herbaceous models. Using such an important tree model for this study places the applicability of its putative findings in realms as important for our society as renewable energy production (woody biomass), ecosystem health (pollutant cleanup, erosion prevention) and rural development (short-rotation plantation, green jobs).

GROUP LEADER: Dr. Luis Oñate-Sánchez



Procedencia EURAXESS
País España
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