Martin, Fred: March 2012 Archives

On February 9, 2012, Vitaliy Shkolnik successfully defended his Master’s thesis, entitled “Purine Metabolite Effects on Growth and Oxidative Signaling in Plants.” His work was conducted in the Department of Biological Sciences at UMass Lowell.

Shkolnik’s work was advised by Dr. Deane Falcone, and supported in part with funding from a grant from Syngenta Biotechnology, a major plant biotechnology research and development firm.

Shkolnik’s research employed the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with which the Falcone Lab had discovered a unique metabolite signaling system that appears to prime plants to better tolerate stresses such as heat and drought. Major insight into the metabolic changes within the plant was recently unveiled in work in the same lab by graduate student Patrizia Stalder, who completed her PhD in August 2011.

The investigations described in Stadler’s dissertation served as the background for Shkolnik to further dissect possible mechanisms in the stress-tolerant line. Because drought is the cause of up to 50% crop yield losses in agriculture, the work is significant as an enabling technology. The prospect of using such technology in crops is underscored by the interest and support from industry.

Shkolnik’s research focused on investigating the effects of purine metabolites implicated in promoting enhanced growth and tolerance. His work employed developing plant cell cultures to test whether reactive oxygen species were involved in signaling once changes in purine levels were triggered in response to stress, a finding also stemming from Stadler’s PhD research.

The results showed that exogenously provided purines can induce increases in reactive oxygen species and so may be a component of cellular signaling which induces stress tolerance in plants.

Shkolnik also identified an additional metabolite that increases stress tolerance likely by functioning as an antioxidant.

Shkolnik’s thesis readers were Pete Gaines and Michael Graves, both of the Department of Biological Sciences, UMass Lowell.

Arabidopsis thaliana.jpg
Visual phenotype of Arabidopsis thaliana wild-type (WT) and the stress-tolerant oxt1 lines grown under normal and oxidative stress conditions. Left two plates contain normal, non-oxidative stress agar medium (½ MS).  Right two plates contain chemical inhibitors to induce oxidative stress (AT/BSO).  Lower two plates contain a purine (0.4 mM adenosine).  Each plate contains wild-type plants on the upper half and oxt1 on the lower half.  Plants were grown for 21 days under standard conditions.

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