More than 250 species in the Plantago genus are distributed throughout the world, many of which are of broad interest because of their medicinal properties and their ability to reduce toxic heavy metals from soil and water. Plantago species are also widely used as experimental model systems for both basic and applied agriculturally-relevant research. For example, Plantago was one of the first species used to study male sterility, an important reproductive trait that has been exploited for crop improvement. Despite its economic and scientific importance, efficient modern molecular tools for Plantago are lacking and represent a significant bottleneck that hampers efforts to provide an in-depth understanding of the processes and underlying regulatory mechanisms and the fundamental discoveries necessary for future crop improvement. This project aims to provide the tools for genetically testing gene function through the development of efficient plant transformation methods in Plantago. Broader impacts of the project include the wide dissemination of protocols and other project outcomes to the broader plant research communities and the engagement and training of high school students, particularly those from underrepresented groups in science, through participation in existing programs at Purdue.

The Plantago genus has many unique features that have led to a series of exciting discoveries, from the initial observation and description of male sterility 143 years ago to studies focused on elucidating unique aspects of sugar transport in plants, and more recently the involvement of vasculature in response to mineral deficiency. In the last two decades, a large number of research groups over the world have conducted transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and biochemical studies and identified thousands of candidate genes and proteins that likely participate in the diverse biological processes observed in the Plantago genus. This project aims to advance the direct testing of gene function in Plantago by establishing efficient transformation methods in two widely used Plantago species, broadleaf (P. major) and narrowleaf (P. lanceolata) plantains. These two species were chosen because of their popularity as model systems by the Plantago research community, their low ploidy (2x) and small genome sizes, as well as their amenability to genetic modification. All protocols and resources will be made freely available and accessible to the public through a project website, a publicly available video, multiple publications and on-site training workshops.

This project is co-funded by the Enabling Discoveries through Genomic Tools (EDGE) and the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) in the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

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.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Diane Okamuro
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Purdue University
West Lafayette
United States
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