In this article:
|Research: Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of Abiotic Stress Tolerance|
|Research: Development and Evaluation of Molecular Markers for Wetland Plants|
Salinity and drought are two very important abiotic stresses that dramatically affect the growth and yield of crop plants because most of the economically important crops are intolerant/sensitive to abitoic stress. There is enormous current interest in improving the salinity and drought tolerance of crops. Salinity/drought tolerance is a complex trait that involves numerous aspects of developmental, physiological, biochemical and molecular adjustments. The regulatory pathways leading to these adjustments are poorly understood and remain a focal point of our research. The "rational" approach is to elucidate the physiological and molecular basis of existing salt- and drought-tolerance mechanisms in different plant species or cultivars and to identify the superior genes/alleles involved so that they can be incorporated into improved cultivars.
Drought Stress Project
Salt Stress Project
Improvement of tolerance of plants against abiotic stresses, such as drought, salinity, and high/low temperature, remains a major focus of present-day research. While most of the cultivated crop species, such as rice, are intolerant to these stresses, there exist a number of extremophiles (such as smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora) that adapt to such extreme environmental conditions through physiological and biochemical adjustments orchestrated by a complex gene interactive regulation network.
At the plant stress molecular biology laboratory (PSMBL), we use molecular biology, genetics and biotechnology tools for improving abiotic stress tolerance in rice and for developing molecular markers for improvement of wetland plants to aid in coastal restoration efforts.
Expressed sequence tag (EST)-derived simple sequence repeat (ESSR) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers are current choice pipelines available to plant breeders for foreground selection in marker-assisted breeding programs because of their direct relevance to agronomic trait(s) of interest, ease of use, co-dominant inheritance, high levels of polymorphism and reasonably even distribution across the genome. Therefore, development of these trait-based "functional" markers is an indispensable tool for the research community in the wetlands plants program, especially when these can be targeted at genomic regions known to contribute to the control of economically important, genetically complex traits such as seedling vigor, spread, seed set, abiotic stress tolerance, etc.
Determination of the genetic variation in smooth cordgrass is important for conserving existing populations and their exploitation in revegetation. Molecular investigations into the population structure, gene diversity and genetic relatedness within smooth cordgrass will be of immense value to catalog a genetic fingerprint of an individual and for maintaining and monitoring genetic purity of future released materials. Toward this end, we are taking advantage of the smooth cordgrass transcriptome sequence data to generate trait-based markers for use in marker-assisted breeding to develop superior smooth cordgrass breeding lines for coastal restoration.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-AFRI
Biotechnology AgCenter Interdisciplinary Team (BAIT)