Under stress bacteria accumulate the potent chemical messenger (p)ppGpp, which drives global changes in transcription that allow the bacteria to adapt and persist. Remarkably the ability to synthesise (p)ppGpp is conserved in plant chloroplasts, organelles that are descended from an ancient prokaryotic endosymbiont. However, very little is known about the role (p)ppGpp plays in plants. We propose to (a) artificially manipulate (p)ppGpp levels and analyse the downstream responses of the plant, and (b) examine how (p)ppGpp synthesis is controlled and how these control mechanisms are wired into known stress and developmental signalling pathways. Discovery of the role of (p)ppGpp in plants will allow us to better understand how plants adapt to stress, how chloroplast development and photosynthesis are regulated, and how an ancient endosymbiont became integrated into a eukaryotic cell. This knowledge will be important for improving crops to face the challenges of a changing climate and uncertain energy supplies.
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