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Regulation of aquaporins in maize roots in response to water stress


Diminished crop water consumption is important to reduce the need for irrigation especially within areas where resources of clean water are scarce. Therefore, expert scientists with strong expertise in plant water relations is needed to address this new agricultural challenge. Aquaporins (AQPs) are channel proteins present in almost all living organisms that facilitate the rapid and passive transport of water across cell membranes.

Whereas general features of AQP molecular structure have been described, the integrated function and regulation in higher organisms, particularly in plants, still remain to be explored. Our project aims at investigating the integrated function and regulation of AQPs in maize roots in response to water stress (drought and salinity) combining molecular/biochemical approaches and physiological/biophysical techniques.

Practically, we will first establish the growth and stress conditions for WT maize lines but also for lines deregulated in AQP gene expression. We will then monitor AQP gene and protein expression using quantitative RT-PCR and immunological approaches. Since AQP phosphorylation increases their water channel activity, we will detect any variation of the AQP phosphorylation status in response to water stress.

In addition, her post-translational modifications such as methylation, acetylation etc. will be investigated using biochemical approaches and mass spectrometry. Finally, the water transport in roots of the different maize lines under water stress will be analyzed using biophysical techniques.

The proposal represents a unique combination of expertises (molecular/biochemistry and physiology/biophysics) and will favour a transfer of knowledge between the host institution and the applicant. The latter will learn molecular/biochemical approaches from the host institution specialised in molecular/biochemistry. The applicant will introduce the physiological/biophysical techniques acquired during his PhD to the host laboratory.

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