Plant senescence is a genetically controlled process modulated by environmental factors. A number of genes that influence ageing have been identified over the recent years; while mutations in most of them accelerate senescence, some delay senescence and thus extend lifespan. Experimental evidence strongly indicates that many more genes than functionally characterized so far contribute to the control of plant ageing. Moreover, very little is currently known about how these genes interact and to what extent developmental signals, environmental factors, phytohormones, and in particular the circadian clock modulate their activity and interactions. Recent research shows that reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a critical role in the control of senescence. The aim of this project therefore is to uncover new elements of the ROS regulatory pathway that modulate senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana and to unravel the mechanisms by which these genes interact with each other and with the internal clock. Mutants with accelerated and delayed senescence, previously isolated by our teams, will be subjected to genetic, genomic, and biochemical analyses. Identification of the mutated genes causing the altered senescence, molecular analysis by RNAseq and qRT-PCR, proteome and metabolome profiling will help to understand how these genes regulate lifespan. Staff exchange is of crucial importance to the success of the project. The Bulgarian partner is an expert in ROS signaling, the German collaborator has expertise in transcriptional regulation of ROS-related genes, and the New Zealand partner brings in knowledge about the genetics and physiology of ageing and ROS - circadian clock interactions. Thus, the European and New Zealand partners mutually complement each other in their expertise and capabilities. Unraveling the genetic mechanisms of plant ageing and lifespan regulation is of both, fundamental and practical importance for generating crops with improved yield and shelf life.
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