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Functional analysis of Stress Granules formation in plant adaptation to stress

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - reSGulating (Functional analysis of Stress Granules formation in plant adaptation to stress)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2019-03-31

Stress adaptation is crucial for organism survival and is one of the driving forces of biological evolution. Plants are sessile organisms and must therefore continuously cope with various types of stresses imposed by abiotic factors (temperature, light, availability of water, etc.) and pathogens. It is very well documented that these stress-related alterations can have a high impact on crop productivity, limiting yield and resulting in unacceptable economic losses. Therefore, understanding the dynamics and evolution of plant stress response is of fundamental importance as these conditions impact agricultural yield, which is essential to sustain our society. One of the evolutionarily-conserved stress responses that plants share with other eukaryotes is a global shutdown and reprogramming of protein synthesis. This mechanism prevents unnecessary energy expenditures at the times of stress and ensures that only specific proteins vital for stress recovery are produced, minimizing stress-related damage and promoting cell survival. At the cellular level, this response is associated with the formation in the cytoplasm of the membraneless organelles called “stress granules” (SGs). These organelles are assemblies of untranslating messenger ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs) composed of mRNAs stalled in translation initiation and a diverse repertoire of proteins.
Research on plant SGs is still in its infancy. In plants, the current knowledge of SG composition and function as well as their assembly requirements and regulation through stress-activated signaling pathways remain totally unknown. More importantly, it is unclear how SGs work and to what extent they can affect stress resistance. In this context, this project aims to better understand the fundamental function of SGs in the regulation of plant response to stress using the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Arabidopsis as model organisms. To achieve these general goals, a multidisciplinary approach including cell and molecular biology, genetic, physiological and bioinformatics techniques, were implemented in order to evaluate four major Aims.
During the first part of the grant, the work was focused on visualizing of the SG formation in the green alga Chlamydomonas. In parallel, I tried to figure out the molecular link between autophagy and SG clearance using Arabidopsis as model organism. As a new step towards a better understanding of the molecular function of SGs in plants, I isolated and identified the SG proteome using the SG-associated proteins TSN1 and TSN2 proteins as baits.

Dissemination of the results has been conducted through (i) participation multidisciplinary seminars organized by the host institute (IBVF-CSIC); (ii) monthly meetings organized by the host group; and (iii) attendance of several national (XIV RBMP, II NEAR) and international conferences (SEB Goteborg 2017 and New Phytologist next generation scientists 2017 symposium).

Outreach activities have constituted an integral part of the project. I have (i) participated in two Fair of Sciences (2018 and 2019); (ii) given a talk in the European Researchers’ Night 2019 (talk title: What is the green revolution?); (iii) created the Twitter account @stress_granules, which main objective is to share with a wide audience all the new advances generated by the SG research (summary: tweets: 178; following: 213; and followers: 230).
The research work has allowed me to progress towards the achievement of the main scientific goal of this project. In addition to the conceptual knowledge gathered in this time, the project has been endowed with very important training and dissemination/public engagement activities. From a strategic point of view, the implementation of the project has enhanced scientific collaborative activities, providing to me with ample opportunities to interact with different research groups, very active in my area of expertise. In addition to those formative strengths, it is our belief that the research questions addressed in this project provide new insights into the molecular role of stress granules formation in plants. This meant a new step to my current idea focused on unmasking the role of the SG formation in plants.