- The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.1 million grant to Purdue University for research on plant stress responses.
- The research, led by Associate Professor Gyeong Mee Yoon, aims to understand how plants acclimate to environmental stressors like drought and heat.
- The study will focus on the biochemical pathways of ethylene biosynthesis and autophagy.
- The research could have significant implications for food security in the context of climate change.
- The grant will also support outreach programs for high school and undergraduate students.
Purdue University has been awarded a $1.1 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund research on how plants adapt to environmental stress. Led by Gyeong Mee Yoon, an Associate Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology, the research aims to explore the molecular responses of plants to various stressors such as drought, severe heat, and cold.
The primary focus of the research is to understand two different biochemical pathways that plants use to improve their response to environmental stress. One of these pathways involves the biosynthesis and signaling of the ethylene hormone, known for its role in regulating fruit ripening. The other pathway is autophagy, a process that allows plants and animals to consume themselves to replace lost nutrients during stress conditions.
Yoon’s research suggests that these two independent cellular signaling pathways may be interconnected. “We believe that the signaling and metabolic pathways are interconnected. They influence each other by crosstalk, thus regulating the overall plant’s response to the environment,” said Yoon. The research will be conducted using Arabidopsis, a well-understood and quick-growing plant, as a model.
Implications for Food Security
The findings could have far-reaching implications for food security, especially in the era of climate change. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that help plants adapt to environmental stress could lead to the development of high-yield, pathogen-resistant, and stress-tolerant plants.
Outreach and Education
In addition to the research, the NSF grant will also support various outreach programs. Yoon has been actively recruiting undergraduates into her lab through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the NSF-funded Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. She also offers research opportunities to high school students through Purdue’s Pre-College Molecular Agriculture Summer Institute.
Purdue Agricultural Communications photo/Tom Campbell