PI: Gary D. Coleman, University of Maryland - College Park CoPI: Ganesh Sriram, University of Maryland - College Park CoPI: Jianhua Zhu, University of Maryland, College Park CoPI: George N. Ude, Bowie State University
Poplar is a fast-growing, temperate deciduous tree that has potential to be an economically viable, non-food source for biofuels and biomaterials. Nitrogen storage and cycling is an important trait that has been identified to have the potential to enhance sustainable yield and quality of biomass from trees. Nitrogen storage and cycling is also a fundamental process important to the adaptation, growth and productivity of trees and occurs over a wide range of time frames. Advancing our knowledge of tree nitrogen storage and cycling is necessary to understand how trees grow, how their biomass is partitioned as well as how they compete and function in an ecosystem. Toward this goal, this project will elucidate, on a genomic level, metabolic, regulatory and signaling pathways and gene networks that regulate nitrogen storage and cycling in poplar. This project will employ genome-wide transcript profiling, isotope-assisted metabolic flux analysis and characterization of the phosphorylation status of proteins. By integrating the results of these analyses, candidate genes and transcription factors that regulate nitrogen storage and cycling will be identified, which will then be used in functional studies that rely on reverse genetic approaches. This project will provide an unprecedented view of how nitrogen storage and cycling is coordinated in trees and is expected to advance and accelerate the potential development of trees with improved nitrogen use that will enhance productivity and sustainability, while addressing future energy needs.
This project is interdisciplinary as it builds on synergies between several disciplines including tree genomics, plant physiology, metabolic engineering, biochemistry and systems biology. Although progress has been made in understanding the linkages and interaction between carbon and nitrogen metabolism in herbaceous plants, little is known in woody plants. The results from this project will allow for comparisons between herbaceous and woody plants and contribute to advancing an overall understanding of carbon and nitrogen metabolism in plants as well as defining differences between annual and perennial plants and their adaptive significance. Broader impacts through the integration of research and education will be accomplished by training graduate students and postdocs, as well as by establishing a genomics training lab at Bowie State University (BSU), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Maryland. This genomics training lab will enable establishing the lab component of "Applied Biotechnology", a proposed course at BSU. An intensive summer training course will be established at BSU and offered to undergraduate students at nearby HBCUs and high school teachers in Prince George County, Maryland, dramatically enhancing their competitiveness in the biotechnology job market and postgraduate education programs. Each year, three students, who are graduates from these training programs, will be selected to work in one of the PI/CoPIs' labs. This will expose the BSU and other HBCU undergraduates to the post-graduate program opportunities at University of Maryland, while also providing the graduate students and postdocs on this project an opportunity to work with and mentor a diverse group of undergraduates. The data and methods that result from this project can be accessed by the public on the project website which will be hosted at www.psla.umd.edu/faculty/coleman.cfm. In addition, all microarray, proteome, flux data and experimental details will be permanently deposited in NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/)and in the digital depository at the University of Maryland (DRUM; www.lib.umd.edu/drum/).