Research Fellows Directory
Dr Amanda Rasmussen
University of Nottingham
To achieve global food security we need to increase food production by more than 60% by 2050. In the face of increased extreme weather events this is an even bigger challenge. In recent years this has been felt in the UK with floods devastating crops over successive harvests. I am investigating the way plants tolerate and respond to flooding events, in particular how roots respond to floods because they are underwater the longest. The roots of plants tend to stop growing during floods and roots form from the stem close to the water surface helping survival. One of the signals in the plant controlling these processes is ethylene which is the same gaseous signal that ripens seeds, and fruit like bananas. Ethylene is continually made by plants and released into the air but during floods the water prevents the ethylene from escaping, leading to higher levels in the plant causing changes in the root system. Adapting these processes will allow us to increase crop flood tolerance. Since ethylene is so important for ripening, we need to be careful about changing it throughout the plant. One way to do this is to change ethylene within a single set of cells in the root, but we need to know in which tissue ethylene signalling triggers the root changes. To study this I am using plants with ethylene sensing removed in specific tissues and looking at differences in root growth and stem root formation. Another way I am investigating the tissues involved is with fluorescent markers. These are natural proteins in the plant that are stabilised in the presence of ethylene and which have been modified to produce a fluorescent protein as part of the molecule which we can detect using microscopes. These then fluoresce in locations in the plant where ethylene is present and tells us how ethylene levels and responses change across the root over time. These techniques are possible in model plants like Arabidopsis (the mouse of the plant world). The next step is to test the results in crops.
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