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Versailles evry research training site

Final Activity Report Summary - VERT (Versailles-Evry research training site)

The VERT consortium trained 36 early-stage researchers (ESRs) in major research fields in plant biology, such as structure and evolution of plant genomes, plant architecture and development, plant reproduction and plant adaptation to the environment.

Twenty eight short-stays, lasting from 3 to 11 months, were completed on different aspects of these scientific themes, including grapewine genomics for seedless characteristics, stress adaptation in arabidopsis, nitrogen use efficiency in wheat, nitrogen transport in arabidopsis, functional genomics of meiosis in petunia and arabidopsis, leaf senescence, phloem differentiation, cellulose synthesis in Arabidopsis and many more. Most often these ESRs originated from laboratories, which had collaborative links with VERT research groups and contributed to strengthen scientific interactions.

In addition, three medium stays were completed. Firstly, in a two-year project, a high-throughput targeting-induced local lesions in genomes (TILLING) strategy was developed. TILLING combined traditional chemical mutagenesis with a sensitive molecular screening to discover induced point mutations in genes of interest whose sequence was known. It was exploited to study tomato genes involved in fruit ripening and genome methylation. This project was further developed in the European EUSOL project and in collaboration between the 'Institut national de la recherche agronomique' (INRA)-Evry in France and Metapontum Agrobios in Italy.

Secondly, an 18 month-stay student investigated the function of an abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis gene involved in the regulation of water stress tolerance. ABA was an essential plant hormone to prevent water loss and induce adaptive responses. This project included the functional analysis of a gene involved in the synthesis of carotenoid precursors of ABA and engineering ABA synthesis in arabidopsis to improve water stress tolerance. This fellow originated from a Japanese laboratory working in the hormone field and collaboration continued between INRA-Versailles and RIKEN institute in Yokohama. During the third medium-stay, which lasted 13 months, the ESR studied sphingolipid biosynthesis and signalling. A role for sphingolipids, such as ceramides and their derivatives, was proposed in controlling cell proliferation, differentiation and cell polarity in yeast and human. This student started the functional analysis of arabidopsis genes, sharing sequence homology to ceramide biosynthesis genes. By the time of the project completion, she was continuing to develop this project in the same research group, after obtaining a French PhD fellowship.

Moreover, five students carried out three-year PhD projects. Their scientific achievements were described in their respective thesis manuscripts. Abstracts of the VERT PhD manuscripts could be found as attachments in the project final activity report.

To conclude, all ESRs were also trained in a large variety of techniques that were available in Versailles or Evry. They all acquired a good expertise in molecular biology techniques and used biological resources, either on site or from international databases, such as collections of mutants, accessions or recombinant lines, and genomic tools including Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) libraries and microarray databases from diverse plant species. Most students also used forward and reverse genetics approaches, such as screening and analysis of T-DNA insertion mutants and tilling, and some of them developed projects dealing with the exploitation of natural diversity, such as screening of arabidopsis accessions and recombinant inbred lines or Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis. A large number of projects included training in cell imaging techniques, e.g. reporter gene analysis, in situ hybridisation and confocal microscopy, as well as the use of biochemical techniques, such as enzymatic assays, yeast two-hybrid and in vitro protein production. Several students also developed high throughput genomic analysis, most frequently transcriptome analyses and exploitation of transcriptome data protein analysis, and bioinformatics.