The goal of this project is to better understand how the gaseous plant hormone ethylene, commonly produced when plants are under stress, acts to regulate adaptation to various environmental inputs such as drought, chilling, salinity, flooding and nutrient deficiency. All of these stresses commonly affect the growth and reproduction of plants, ultimately threatening global food security. Plants undergo adaptive responses to these stresses by modifying physiological processes in which plant hormones such as ethylene play a pivotal role. This project will not only uncover the role of ethylene in plant adaptive response, potentially contributing to improving sustainable agriculture and food security, it will also provide research training for one postdoctoral scientist and two graduate students. The project leaders will also mentor undergraduate students through summer internship opportunities as well as other undergraduate research activities. In addition, the project will provide outreach activities to the general public, focusing on local high school students by allowing them to experience personal laboratory exercises and research presentations.
Rapid adaptation of plants to their surroundings is a critical trait for the survival of the plant and is regulated by how fast plants alter their growth patterns by modulating cellular dynamics. However, little is known about the fundamental aspects of adaptive responses such as response kinetics and the correlation of these kinetics with cellular events. The goal of this research is to fill this knowledge gap by utilizing ethylene-regulated dark-grown seedlings as a model system. The plant hormone ethylene plays a key role in plant adaptation, in addition to its well-known function in plant growth and development. Furthermore, dark-grown seedlings provide an excellent model system to study plant adaptation, as ethylene-induced changes are easy to trigger and to assay and the signaling pathway has been well characterized. Moreover, several studies indicate that the reversible growth kinetics of dark-grown seedlings in response to ethylene is closely regulated by the spatiotemporal regulation of ethylene signaling molecules. This provides a unique opportunity to study the correlation between adaptive response kinetics with the altered cellular dynamics directing this change. In order to accomplish these research goals, the investigators will determine the movement kinetics of the central ethylene signaling molecules in response to ethylene using cell biology approaches and its relation to the growth kinetics of dark-grown seedlings using high-resolution, time-lapse imaging analysis. In addition, they will test the hypothesis that a RAF-like protein kinase called Constitutive Triple Response 1 (CTR1), a negative regulator of ethylene signaling, plays a key role in a rapid resetting of the ethylene response, leading to faster growth recovery of dark-grown seedlings after ethylene treatment.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.