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Deciphering the regulatory role of reactive oxygen species in plant ageing through an integrative genetics and genomics approach

Final Report Summary - PLANTAGEING (Deciphering the regulatory role of reactive oxygen species in plant ageing through an integrative genetics and genomics approach)

Plant senescence is a genetically controlled process modulated by environmental factors, including drought, UV radiation, extreme temperatures, and pathogens. Recent research shows that reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a critical role in the control of senescence. The aim of PlantAgeing is to uncover new elements of the ROS regulatory pathway that modulate senescence and to unravel the mechanisms by which these genes interact with each other.
Over the past years of the collaboration, the PlantAgeing teams in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Potsdam (Germany), and Palmerston North (New Zealand) have studied mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana with accelerated and delayed senescence by subjecting them to genetic, genomic, and biochemical analyses. The analyses included high throughput methods such as RNAseq and whole genome sequencing. Next to that, the teams studied plant extremophile species that can tolerate desiccation (Haberlea rhodopensis) or high UV radiation (Pachycladon cheesemanii) and does not undergo abiotic stress-induced senescence.
Past and ongoing staff exchange has been shown to be of crucial importance to the success of the project. The Bulgarian partner, an expert in ROS signaling, the German collaborator, with expertise in transcriptional regulation of ROS-related genes, and the New Zealand partner, with knowledge about the genetics and physiology of ageing and ROS interactions, mutually complemented 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. The scientists in the three teams have identified genes of potential importance for the senescence process, as well as metabolite reconfigurations that are happening during abiotic stress challenges in A. thaliana, H. rhodopensis, and P. cheesemanii. The lessons learnt from PlantAgeing may enable developing future strategies for improvement of fleshy and leafy vegetables. Furthermore, the project has strengthened the cooperation between the two European partner institutions and the partner from New Zealand. The three principal Investigators are now cooperating in two other EU projects. Hence, PlantAgeing has functioned as a bridge between the plant science communities of Europe and New Zealand.