Brassinosteroids are important plant hormones that promote plant growth and enhance plant resistance to a variety of environmental stresses by increasing or decreasing the expression of hundreds, if not thousands of plant genes. This project uses a combinatory approach of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, genomics, and genetics to investigate the biological functions of a small family of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors in regulating the expression of some of these growth-related genes. It also studies how the gene-regulatory activities of these transcription factors themselves are controlled by protein phosphorylation and protein-protein interaction. The successful completion of this project will significantly enhance our understanding of the gene regulatory mechanisms of the plant steroid hormones to stimulate growth and could lead to better strategies to increase grain yield in crop plants and biomass production in biofuel feedstocks.
This project will provide excellent training opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students and a postdoctoral research fellow to gain significant research experience and to develop their ability to critically analyze experimental data, formulate testable hypothesis, and solve scientific problems. It will also contribute to the University of Michigan's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and Summer Research Opportunity Program that specifically recruits outstanding underrepresented undergraduates into research laboratories. This project will integrate the proposed research activities with an Introductory Plant Biology course and will generate exciting experimental data that will be discussed with students of a Plant Physiology course. The successful execution of the proposed project will create interesting mutant or transgenic plants that can be used as teaching materials for science education at local public schools.