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Vardis Ntoukakis

Dr Vardis Ntoukakis

Research Fellow


University of Warwick

Research summary

The world is entering an era of global food shortage. The fast-expanding human population, together with the global demand for natural resources are creating food insecurity. Therefore, it is of great importance to increase current crop yield in a sustainable manner. Plant diseases are a continuous threat to food production, causing crop losses that currently exceed 15% of the global crop production. A sustainable strategy to manage disease is to create plants with increased resistance to diseases. Unfortunately, increased resistance to diseases often comes with severe penalties for plant growth and yield.

In previous work using the 'model' plant Arabidopsis thaliana we identified a process called chromatin remodelling as a major regulator of both growth and immunity. Chromatin remodelling is a conserved mechanism in plants and animals that controls how genes are turned on or off. We discovered specific genes that regulate plant growth and immunity by controlling chromatin remodelling. Plants lacking one of the genes responsible for chromatin remodelling have bigger leaves and are more resistant to plant diseases. This is a remarkable result since in plants growth and immunity typically act in an antagonistic way.

This proposal will initially learn more about the mechanism used by these genes to regulate plant resistance to diseases and growth. Then we will use new 'synthetic biology' technologies to delete these genes from crop plants to test our prediction that this will lead to greater disease resistance and plant growth. We will do this in both tomato and oilseed since they are important crops for the UK and worldwide agriculture.

The outputs of our work will be a better understanding of plant immunity and new tomato and oilseed rape plants with increased growth and resistance to devastating diseases. By generating these plants we will have made a major effort to increase current food production and maintain future food supply in the face of plant disease.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Role of chromatin remodelling in Plant-Microbe interactions

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2017 - Sep 2020

Value: £323,390.20

Role of chromatin remodelling in plant microbe interactions

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2012 - Sep 2017

Value: £437,345.31