ROOT DEVELOPMENTAL TRAITS ASSOCIATED WITH PLANT ADAPTABILITY TO EXTREME ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
- Martín Trillo, María del Mar - Visiting Scientist
- Sánchez Bermudez, Maria - PhD Student
One of the key issues that plant scientists have to address is how to improve crop production on a planet with increasing challenging environmental conditions. Roots are in charge of delivering the nutrients and water that are usually a limiting factor in many lands. Additionally, they are also in the first line to respond to stresses produced by drought, flooding, heat or nutrient limitations. The development of an efficient root system better adapted to different soil conditions is crucial for the plant survival. A better understanding of the genetic and molecular factors regulating this developmental process will allow us to design crops with enhanced productivity and adaptation to new climate environments. In this context, our group is focused on uncovering the mechanisms regulating root development in response to these environmental conditions, in particular to warm temperatures. Thus, our research programme involves two main fields: i) analysis of root developmental traits associated to plant adaptability to extreme conditions in the Brassicaceae family with special attention to species of potential agronomic interest, principally in Brassica napus (oilseed rape) and ii) the study of root adaptation to soil and environment during plant evolution. The ultimate goal of our lab is to assist agriculture in the evaluation and prevention of the consequences of current and future adverse environmental conditions driven by climate change on plant growth and to develop crops better adapted to face this challenge.
Extreme climate conditions like drought, flood and heat events are predicted to be more frequent in the near future. European agriculture will require crops able to cope with variable environmental conditions without altering their productivity. Crop yield stability is dependent on the response of key developmental programs like root development to stress conditions. Our research will advance our understanding of the mechanisms of how plants integrate developmental and growth processes in response to extreme environmental conditions. This knowledge will provide the basis on which more efficient production of crops can be achieved and make a significant contribution to breed new varieties. Our research group is focused on finding new root development traits associated with plant adaptability to extreme conditions produced by climate change and in uncovering the genetic and molecular factors regulating root development in response to soil and environmental conditions. In particular, our research programme involves two main fields:
Our research is focused on uncovering the mechanisms regulating root development in response to extreme environmental conditions, in particular to warm temperatures. Modify from Calleja-Cabrera J, et al. 2020.
Analysis of root developmental traits associated with plant adaptability to extreme conditions in the Brassicaceae family
European farmers are currently tackling the crucial challenge of securing crop yield by adapting agricultural practices and crop varieties to climate change. Europe's premium oilseed crop, oilseed rape (Brassica napus) is one of the world's most important sources of high-quality vegetable oils for human nutrition and biofuels, and particularly in Europe is also a major contributor to vegetable protein diets for ruminant livestock. Plants are highly responsive to small differences in temperature and adjust their growth and development accordingly. Although great progress has been made in improving crop tolerance to adverse environmental stresses, so far most efforts have targeted above-ground traits. Roots are essential for plant adaptation to environment and crop productivity, but have been less studied due to the difficulty of observing underground organs during the plant life cycle. Our group is investigating the impact of prolonged elevation of ambient temperature, recapitulating the consequences of global warming, on root development traits in a genetically diverse panel of oilseed rape genotypes.
Differences in root system architecture of three oilseed rape varieties in response to warm temperature.
Using a combination of genetic, molecular and genomic tools we are analysing the effect of temperature on root traits and studying the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying this response. Our aim is understanding how oilseed rape plants integrate developmental and growth processes in response to temperature. This knowledge will provide the basis on which more efficient production of oilseed rape can be achieved and make a significant contribution to breed new varieties.
Confocal images of mPS-PI stained roots showing the differences in cellular organization between a root of Brassica napus grown at warm temperatures and another root grown at control temperature.
Study of root adaptation to soil and environment during plant evolution
Addressing the global challenges of climate change and food security is linked to the use of our plant biodiversity. Roots provide the interface between plants and the soil environment. Their major function is to extract from the soils the water and nutrients that are required for growth and to ensure plant productivity. Plants have evolved a wide range of below-ground strategies to respond to changes in the availability of both elements due to variable environmental conditions. These responses include changes in architectural traits (root depth and length, lateral roots number, density and length, root angle) that determine the spatial configuration of the whole root systems; and morphological traits (root diameter, number and length of root hairs). The analysis of this root response in landraces and local populations adapted to specific challenging environmental conditions, will provide us with new genetic tools needed to improve the efficiency of crops to climate variability. To achieve it we will explore the diversity of root adaptive traits of two economically important vegetable species of the Brassica genus, B. oleracea and B. rapa, native of the Mediterranean basin. We will perform deep phenotyping for root architecture by measuring these traits on natural populations of these two species across a broad environmental gradient encompassing climate and soil variation, mimicking the extreme conditions in which populations were collected. Then, we will determine the genetic bases of these traits underlying local adaptation. Our analysis will contribute significantly to understand how roots respond to changes in soil and climate conditions and how this adaptation has been acquired during plant evolution. In summary, our studies will help us to face two of the global issues of our society, food security and impact of changing environment conditions on plant diversity.
Differences in root biomass in a panel of winter oilseed rape varieties.
- 2012–2015. Marie Curie CIG (Research European Commision). PCIG10-GA-2011-303831. BRASSTEMCellEVO: Development and evolution of tissue complexity in plants: The Brassicaceae stem cell development.
- 2014–2017. FP7. FACCE-JPI-ERA-NET+CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE. Project coordinator: M Pernas. Securing yield stability of Brassica crops in changing climate conditions (SYBRACLIM).
- 2014–2017. Programa Estatal I+D+I, Retos Investigación (Ministry of Economy and Competiveness, MINECO). BIO2013-43098-R. Co-Pis: J.A. Jarillo and M. Piñeiro (M. Pernas, Researcher partner). BrassiCHROM: Chromatin-mediated regulation of developmental traits affecting crop yield in Brassicaceae.
- 2016-2019. Programa Estatal I+D+I, Retos Investigación (Ministry of Economy and Competiveness, MINECO). BIO2016-77559-R. Co-Pis: J.A. Jarillo and M. Piñeiro (M. Pernas, Researcher partner). CHROMYIELD: Caracteres de desarrollo regulados por cromatina con influencia en el rendimiento de cultivos.
- Wide exploration of genetic diversity in Brassica species for sustainable crop production. BrasExplor. Funding program: PRIMA call 2019 Section 2. PI: Manuel Piñeiro. 01/09/20 - 31/08/23.
- Acetilación de la variante histónica H2A.Z: un nuevo símbolo en el código epigenético de plantas. AcEPICODE (PID2019-104899GB-I00). Funding program: MICIN Plan Estatal I+D+I, Generación de Conocimiento. PI: Jose A. Jarillo Quiroga & Manuel Piñeiro. 01/06/20 - 31/05/23.
Boter, M., Pozas, J., Jarillo, J.A., Piñeiro, M., Pernas, M. 2023. Brassica napus Roots Use Different Strategies to Respond to Warm Temperatures. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 24,1143. DOI: 10.3390/ijms24021143
Abelenda, J.A., Trabanco, N., Olmo, I. del, Pozas, J., Martín-Trillo, M. del M., Gómez-Garrido, J., Esteve-Codina, A., Pernas, M., Jarillo, J.A., Piñeiro, M. 2022. High ambient temperature impacts on flowering time in Brassica napus through both H2A.Z-dependent and independent mechanisms. Plant, Cell & Environment. DOI: 10.1111/pce.14526
Sánchez-Bermúdez, M., del Pozo, J.C., Pernas, M. 2022. Effects of Combined Abiotic Stresses Related to Climate Change on Root Growth in Crops. Frontiers in Plant Science 13. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2022.918537
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