Environmental Signal Integration in Plants

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

The Kumar lab is studying how plants integrate environmental signals to mount an ecologically meaningful response. The focus of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying environmental signal integration. We are studying how environmental factors (e.g. temperature) affect plant-pathogen interactions in particular. Using Arabidopsis thaliana as a discovery platform, we seek to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying gene regulation and how environmental factors affect gene regulatory mechanisms. By understanding the molecular basis of environmental signal integration, we seek to study adaptation of gene regulatory mechanisms to local and dynamic environments. Understanding the fundamental aspects of environmental adaptation will be key to improve crop performance through developing crops resilient or adapted to climate change.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have uncovered fundamental principles underlying environmental signal integration in plants. We found that plant immunity is strongly influenced by temperature. Both basal and induced defense responses were modulated by changes in ambient temperature. Importantly the temperature-induced defense suppression was found to be a direct output of thermosensory signalling. Importantly, PIF4 mediated thermosensory signalling was found to coordinate growth and immunity in Arabidopsis. While PIF4 promotes growth at elevated temperature, it suppressed defense responses. PIF4 was found to be a negative regulator of immunity. Modulation of PIF4-mediated thermosensory signalling led to alteration in the growth-defense balance. We found that natural variation in thermosensory signalling reflects altered growth-defense balance. We have found that thermosensory growth is modulated by photoperiod through the DET1/COP1-PIF4 signal circuitry. To identify the molecular mechanisms that underlie the integration of temperature signals into immunity, we isolated several resilient (res) mutants with the ability to mount defense at high temperature. While nearly all of the enhanced defense mutations known so far are completely suppressed by growth at higher temperatures, res mutants maintain robust resistance at 27 ºC. Interestingly many of these mutants displayed defective temperature sensing phenotypes, suggesting that RES encode possibly novel thermosensory molecules.
Exploitation Route We have found that temperature-induced suppression of immunity is closely coordinated with thermosensory growth through the transcription factor PIF4. Modulating temperature responsive growth could alter thermal sensitivity of defense and lea to resilient resistance. Further, our work has established that thermosensory mechanisms are conserved between Arabidopsis and oilseed rape, allowing us to modify thermosensory signalling in crops to alter thermal sensitivity of defense. In summary, this project has established a research programme addressing an important fundamental biology question of great practical relevance. We have made several key discoveries that will help elucidate the complex interaction of plants with their environment, providing us with valuable insights. Our findings have been followed up by a number of other researchers within and outside the UK.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Through this research we have unearthed fundamental principles underlying environmental signal integration. Knowledge generated has been used to develop technologies for crop improvement. A patent application has been filed with Plant Biosciences Limited. This has led to the extension of our research on model pant Arabidopsis into crop plants with collaboration to test the paradigms in oil seed rape.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description H2020 MSCA Individual Fellowship
Amount € 404,387 (EUR)
Funding ID 656995 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2017
 
Description D Lucyshyn 
Organisation University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences
Country Austria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative research on low temperature mediated regulation of plant growth and development. Genetics and molecular biology experiments.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative research on low temperature mediated regulation of plant growth and development. Genetics and molecular biology experiments.
Impact New collaboration. No reportable outcomes yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description Ive De Smet 
Organisation Flanders Institute for Biotechnology
Country Belgium 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Collaborative research on understanding the role of protein phosphorylation in plant temperature responses. Genetics, molecular biology related to temperature responses.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative research on understanding the role of protein phosphorylation in plant temperature responses. Molecular biology and phosphor proteomics.
Impact No reportable outcomes yet. Ongoing collaboration.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Conflict of interests: How do plants sense and integrate environmental signals. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited speaker at: Thermomorphogenesis 2016, (25 - 27 August 2016), Halle, Germany.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Conflict of interests: How do plants sense and integrate environmental signals? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited talk at BOKU, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
April 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description GARNet Youtube Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact GARNet youtube interview about two articles published in Current Biology and Cell reports
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_--vJal50A
 
Description Garnet Youtube Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Garnet Youtube Interview about a published paper in Molecular Plant
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5gk21sIE9I
 
Description Interview: With Angus Chen of National Public Radio (USA) on Warming scenario and early seed dispersal in Brassicas. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview: With Angus Chen of National Public Radio (USA) on Warming scenario and early seed dispersal in Brassicas. This was in relation to a recently published research article.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/02/12/584936969/what-canola-can-tell-us-about-crops-and-cli...
 
Description Invited Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at VIB Ghent, Belgium. Talking about the research findings of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk at University of Potsdam: Perception and integration of environmental signals in plants. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited Talk at Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Germany.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Perception and integration of environmental signals in plants 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited talk at: Arabidopsis 2016: Emerging Challenges in Plant Biology, Mohali, India
March 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Putting it together: How do plants sense and integrate seasonal signals? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at: Institut de Biologie de l'École Normale Supérieure (IBENS), Paris, France. This has led to the establishment of a collaboration involving scientists from France and Spain.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017