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Epigenetic mechanisms controlling hypoxia and pathogen Stress responses in plants


Climate change is a global problem that is drastically changing our planet. Increased precipitation in Northern Europe has caused major crop losses, in part due to the oxygen deprivation experienced by the waterlogged roots. In mammals, epigenetic mechanisms (histone demethylation) have recently been identified that play a major role in the response to low oxygen levels (hypoxia), and response to infection. There are striking similarities between the mammalian and plant responses to hypoxia and infection. My preliminary analyses suggest that the epigenetic mechanisms that control these responses in mammals may be conserved in plants. EpiStress aims to determine if major changes to the epigenetic landscape underlie (i) gene expression changes in response to hypoxia and/or immune response in plants; (ii) the trade-off between the hypoxia and immune programs. These aims will be achieved through three objectives; (i) determining if histone demethylases are novel players in the regulation of hypoxia response in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana; (ii) testing if histone methylation or acetylation changes underlie the trade-off between hypoxia response and immunity; (iii) describing the epigenetic changes that occur in response to hypoxia in barley (Hordeum vulgare) and if these changes can explain corresponding gene expression changes. Fundamental mechanisms will first be established at Maynooth University, Ireland under the supervision of Dr. Emmanuelle Graciet. The potential for crop adaptation to climate change will be explored during a secondment at the state agency Teagasc, Ireland under the supervision of Dr. Ewen Mullins, using barley, Ireland’s most widely grown tillage crop. A combination of genetics, hypoxia and pathogen treatments, chromatin immunoprecipitation with next generation sequencing (ChIP-seq), RNA-seq and bioinformatics will be used throughout this project to identify a major new pathway of hypoxia and infection response in plants.

Field of science

  • /medical and health sciences/health sciences/public and environmental health/epidemics prevention/immunisation
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity/epigenetics
  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/atmospheric sciences/climatology/climatic changes
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/zoology/mammalogy

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Co Kildare
W23 Maynooth
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 184 590,72