EXTREMOPHYTES: THE NEW PROMISING MODELS FOR DISCOVERING STRESS TOLERANCE MECHANISMS AND BIOACTIVE COMPOUNDS

Director: León Bravo

Alt. Director: Marjorie Reyes

University: Universidad de La Frontera

Abstract

For thousands of years ago the human societies searched in agriculture communities

the domestication of several wild species adapted to different environments and ecosystems for sustaining the global food demand. Late 20th century, food production

increased basically maximizing the crops yield, but decreasing the survival capacity of

crops to environmental stresses. Thus, crops could probably be considered to be model

plants that maximize the upper limits of productivity and photosynthesis, but because of selective breeding pressure (selection of productive traits) and agricultural practices they should not be considered suitable “model plants” for the study of photosynthesis and productivity in a climate-changing world. Interestingly, some plant species could be considered “outliers”, showing both a significant photosynthetic rate and ability to tolerate stresses. Some of these species are found in Chilean territory as the sole native vascular plants in all of the Antarctica continent: Colobanthus quitensis and Deschampsia antarctica as well as the invasive grass Poa annua, and other species living at high altitudes in the Andean range like Rytidosperma pictum. This project aims to study new promising models for discovering robust strategies based on a deep understanding of the plant’s ecophysiological mechanisms behind stress tolerance and its relationship with primary production and yield, which would enable crops to withstand the uncertainty of climate change whilst still producing maximum yields, stress tolerance mechanisms and bioactive compounds. Our approach will consider the use of parallel transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic profiles of the outlier species and its closest relative plant species for giving us a very robust knowledge. For this, physiological, biochemical and molecular traits of these plant species will be determined in order to understand how plant outlier species are able to escape from the trade-off between productivity and stress tolerance. A transgenic strategy to test potential candidate genes using model plants as A. thaliana and tobacco under laboratory conditions will be developed. In addition, the identification of new bioactive compounds with antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic and/or anti-diabetic activity through different methodologies will be performed. Finally, a phenomic platform inside the NEXER framework, reinforcing the linkages among the NEXER institutions by developing collaborative academic and research activities (courses, seminars, and symposia) over the short- and long-term will be established.

Associate researchers

  • Christian Wulff
  • Jorge Farías
  • Alejandra Ribera
  • Edgar Uquiche
  • Miren Alberdi
  • Ingrid Hebel
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