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Involvement of RNA-binding Proteins in the plant responses to drought and salinity


The effect of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global warming on the distribution and function of plants on earth is unpredictable. The stornata control both the influx of CÜ2 for photosynthetic carbon fixation and water loss from plants through transpiration.

Thus, stomatal movement is one of the major processes that will be affected by the climate changes. In addition to contributing to the basic knowledge, understanding of the signal transduction mechanisms, which control stomatal movements, could have both ecological and practical agriculture applications.

The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) plays a central role in the regulation of the stornata function in response to drought-salt stresses. Under such stresses, ABA is synthesised and induces stomatal closing. The host laboratory has recently isolated a new Arabidopsis gene, ABH1 that controls signal transduction by ABA (Hugouvieux et al., 2001, Cell).

The first objective of this project is to functionally characterize the RNA binding protein ABH1 in order to determine how RNA processing modulates ABA signal transduction. Our hypothesis is that ABH1 binds to specific transcripts by direct interaction or by interacting with other regulatory proteins.

We will isolate and identify the specific transcripts to which ABH1 binds as well as the putative regulatory proteins interacting with it. Our studies will involve in vivo and in vitro approaches using novel proteomic, genomic and time resolved imaging tools. In the home institution we have undertaken a systematic search for sugar beet halo tolerant genes that could be involved in the salt tolerance response of plants.

Several genes encoding RNA binding proteins were isolated, but the mechanism underlying this salt tolerance is unknown. During the second and third year of the project, we will initiate a new research topic in the home institution.

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