Presenter: Juan Quijia Pillajo
Advisor: Dr. Michelle Jones
SAC members: Dr. John Finer, Dr. Joshua Blakeslee
Proposal Type: MS Proposal
Title of Presentation: Characterization of autophagy related genes in Petunia
Autophagy is a biological process conserved among eukaryotes, by which the cell catabolizes its cytosolic content into primary building compounds. Autophagy is characterized by the formation of a double-membrane structure (autophagosome) in the cytosol. The autophagosome captures the cytosolic contents and delivers them to the vacuole for degradation. Autophagy-related-genes (Atg) were first described in yeast. Over the past years, Atg homologues have been identified and characterized in other multicellular organisms. Autophagy has a role in cellular homeostasis, developmental processes (flower senescence), and biotic and abiotic stress responses. Although autophagy has been studied in various agronomic crops little is known about autophagy in floriculture crops and its role in production and post-production quality. A recent RNA-seq analysis of senescing petunia petals revealed joint changes in the expression of Atgs. To further understand the autophagy functions in floricultural crops I will characterize five Atgs (Atg6, Atg7, Atg4, Atg5 and Atg8a) during flower senescence, and drought and salt stress using Petunia×hybryda as model. Petunia is an important floricultural commodity as well as a suitable model for molecular and genetic research. My objectives are to (1) characterize the Atgs expression patterns by RT-qPCR, (2) use a recently optimized VIGS protocol and an RNAi line for Atgs functional characterization and (3) monitor autophagosome development via transient transformation of the GFP-ATG8 fusion protein in senescing petals. These results will increase our understanding of the role of autophagy in plant physiology and will provide novel information for engineering of floricultural crops with stress tolerance or delayed flower senescence.