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miPDesign Report Summary

Project ID: 336295
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Denmark

Mid-Term Report Summary - MIPDESIGN (Designing microProteins to alter growth processes in crop plants)

The goal of this proposal is to establish synthetic microProtein pathways to control developmental pathways in crop plants. Several developmental processes are regulated by transcription factors that underlie post-translational regulation by microProteins. We have developed a computational pipeline to identify microProteins in any sequenced genome. Our analysis identified both species-specific but also evolutionary highly conserved microProtein. Understanding how these proteins act at the molecular level is still unknown. In order to take the mechanism of action apart, we developed transgenic reporter plants and subjected these to an EMS mutagenesis. This approach resulted in the identification of several microProtein-suppressor mutants. We have started to use a whole-genome sequencing approach to identify the nature of the causal mutations. For one microProtein we found that it interacts with epigenetic silencing pathways to exert its function. In order to being able to control developmental processes in the model plant Arabidopsis but also in economically important crops, we need to be able to design microProteins that fulfil these requirements. Using known microProteins as template, we designed artificial microProteins to address a known signaling pathway in rice. Our approach resulted in the generation of transgenic rice plants that can flower early under non-inductive long-day photoperiods. We are currently further characterizing these plants. We further aim to modulate other developmental processes using microProtein-based approaches. Future research is targeted to generate mutant plants that are transgene-free, which will enable the use of these varieties for economical purposes.

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