Speaker: Satya Swathi Nadakuduti, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University
Title: Genome engineering for enhancing plant resilience and understanding epidermal cell function
Abstract: For sustainable food production in the wake of global climate change, a foremost challenge faced by plant scientists is to develop resilient crops. To achieve resilience, a multiscale understanding of plants’ response to changing climatic conditions and correlative modulation of their growth/development are of fundamental importance. My research program will focus on I) Plant genome engineering for enhancing crop resilience and nutritional quality II) Understanding the role of epidermis in plant adaptation and survival under biotic/abiotic stress conditions. My current research is focused on utilizing genome engineering in potato breeding and genetics program at Michigan State University mainly to improve nutritional quality, herbicide tolerance along with characterizing specificity of CRISPR/Cas9, Cas12a, base editors and TALENs in crop species. In future, I plan to apply gene-editing for crop improvement as well as a functional genomics tool to advance discoveries in plant biology. Plant surfaces are at the forefront of resilience where interactions of plants with environment begins. I studied epidermal cell function using integrative approaches combining metabolite profiling, phylogenetics, transcriptomics, gene silencing and other in vitro and in planta assays. As examples, I will discuss my research on identification and characterization of a) CD2, a master regulatory gene in tomato which defined a regulatory link between surface lipids and flavonoid metabolic pathways operating in epidermal cells and b) acylsugar acyl transferases in Petunia axillaris required for epidermal trichome-localized acylsugar biosynthesis. These metabolic pathways in plant epidermis play a critical role in protection against biotic and abiotic stresses. In future, I plan to study plant surface biology and its role in resilience to climate change utilizing wild relatives of cultivated tomato and species along plant evolutionary lineage. I also want to expand my research arena to nanotechnology applications in agriculture via synergistic collaborations at Iowa State. Overall, my research program will play a role in establishing genome engineering applications for crop improvement and in understanding plant epidermal cell function to enhance crop resilience.
Host: Diane Bassham