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Xeumin (Sam) Wang, Ph.D., Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Kentucky

Oliver Yu, Ph.D.,

Genetics and Plant Physiology, University of South Carolina

Signaling Networks for Improving Water and Phosphate Use Effi ciency: The availability of water and phosphate are two of the most limiting factors for plant growth and agricultural production. Research in the Wang lab investigates how plants sense water and phosphate defi cits with goals to improve plant production with enhanced water and nutrient use effi ciency. The main research focus is to understand how membrane lipids function as cellular mediators in plant response to water and nutrient cues. One project sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) is to determine how lipid mediators interact with proteins to regulate cellular processes. Another NSF project is to investigate the function of oxidative modifi cations of complex membrane lipids in plant response to stresses. The project supported by the US Department of Agriculture studies the role of phospholipases in producing lipid regulator in plant response to water and nutrient defi cits. The work sponsored by the Department of Energy investigates the membrane- based signaling cascade that impacts vegetable oil production.

Understanding Natural Nitrogen Fertilization:

Nitrogen is the main component of synthetic fertilizers for crops. Worldwide, the production of nitrogen fertilizers consumes approximately 5% of global natural gas and 2% of all energy produced. Biological nitrogen fi xation can reduce the application of fertilizers drastically and plays an important role in the nitrogen cycling in the biosphere. Research in the Yu lab focuses on legume rhizobia symbiosis, which is the major contributor to biological nitrogen fi xation. Rhizobia are a small group of soil-borne bacteria that can colonize the roots of legume plants, induce host plants to form a specifi c structure called root nodules, and reduce atmosphere nitrogen gas into ammonia inside these nodules. The establishment of this symbiotic relationship requires extensive signaling between the plants and bacteria. Many steps and components of early signaling events are still unclear. We recently discovered that specifi c fl avonoid compounds and miroRNAs play essential roles in the nodulation process. Understanding their functions is crucial for deciphering the mechanisms of symbiosis.


2010 Annual Report

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