Research Fellows Directory
Dr Isabel Baurle
University of East Anglia
Plants are sessile organisms and they monitor environmental cues such as light quality and temperature to align their development with favourable external conditions. However, environmental conditions are not always favourable or predictable and so plants have also evolved sophisticated mechanisms to adapt and respond to hostile (stressful) environments. Abiotic stress (as caused by extreme temperatures, drought, salt) is a severe problem for agriculture worldwide and causes large losses in crop yield, estimated at 50-80%. This problem is likely to be exacerbated with climate change. It is therefore very important to engineer plants with higher resilience to abiotic stresses. Understanding the molecular basis of how plants remember abiotic stress could provide a novel strategy for the improvement of stress resistance. The cellular memory of stress is also an extremely interesting problem from a basic science point of view. How can plants – in the absence of a nervous system – maintain a memory of past experience that lasts for days or even weeks, exceeding greatly the generation time of individual cells? We are studying the cellular memory in response to heat stress mainly using the genetic tools available in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Our work focusses on two major aspects, the molecular mechanism of the memory and its evolution. Once we have gained sufficient knowledge of how Arabidopsis thaliana remembers abiotic stress, we aim to transfer our knowledge to crop plants, which will ultimately contribute to create more stress resistant crops for food production.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)