This research proposal describes the development of a research program to study thebiogenesis of Arabidopsis phytoalexins. We will begin by investigating the biosyntheticpathway of camalexin, a phytoalexin produced as part of the induced defense response.The first part of our two-phase plan for studying Arabidopsis phytoalexin pathways willfocus on the identification of camalexin biosynthetic genes through a collaboration withthe Ausubel lab at MGH. During this training period, I will attend relevant meetings andworkshops, and I will consult regularly with three senior advisors to establish skillsrequired for timely advance of the project. During the second, independent phase of theproject I will biochemically characterize candidate phytoalexin pathway enzymesimplicated by the data gathered during phase one. I expect that this work will serve as aspringboard for the formulation of a new research program that uses a combination ofgenetics, chemistry, and biochemistry to elucidate secondary metabolite biosyntheticpathways in plants. A deeper understanding of these pathways will not only illuminatethe molecular details of host-pathogen interactions, but it is also likely to have animportant impact on human health, given the strong track record of plant naturalproducts as clinically-used medicines.
Plants produce a wealth of secondary metabolites for defense against destructive pests. The research program outlined in this proposal explores components of plant immune response pathways as well as the production, distribution, and metabolism of the contributing small molecules. These compounds are contained in commonly consumed vegetables and have been found to have beneficial effects on human health.
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