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An Integrated Omics Guided Approach to Lignification and Gravitational Responses: The Final Frontier

EMSL Project ID


Integrated “omics” approaches are increasingly urgently needed to robustly pursue incisive hypotheses in biological systems, while concomitantly gaining better understanding of global ramifications at the organismal level. One example of this would be obtaining a comprehensive understanding of adaptations of key scientific model organisms at 1g and in microgravity. Herein, we propose such a strategy to investigate not only our key hypotheses using the model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana, but also carrying these out under conditions that allow identifying systems-wide adaptations when plant lines are grown in 1g and microgravity environments. The work proposed herein builds upon our recent excellent progress in a) modulating lignin contents and vascular apparatus performance, via manipulating the arogenate dehydratase (ADT) multi-gene family, and b) enhancing carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) to improve photosynthetic carbon assimilation and water use efficiency (WUE), alone and/or in combination with altered lignin levels (see Approach). The knowledge to be gained herein, we propose, will also be essential for optimizing plants for spaceflight exploration and utilization (such as on Moon or Mars bases), as well as gaining new insights and knowledge into the various network interdependencies including, for example, photo-/gravi-tropisms, lignification, and WUE.
We are, however, fully cognizant that numerous biological processes (including gravitropism, phototropism, and microgravity adaptations) are simultaneously affected by such genetic manipulations as above; hence the reason why an integrated and global “omics” approach is essential for addressing the hypotheses proposed (see below). Perhaps as importantly, our team brings together the necessary synergistic expertise to conduct this study on modulating lignins/CCMs and to establish their effects on photosynthesis efficacy/carbon assimilation and WUE (Hanson, Sayre), phenomics (Davin, Hanson, Sayre, and Lewis), lignification/cell wall assembly, carbon storage/re-allocation and metabolomics (Davin, Lewis), transcriptomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics (Lipton and Starkenburg). With all thrusts being linked through our integrated computational biology (ICB) portal, the individual team members will synergistically apply their particular expertise to collectively test our hypotheses, and then integrate, interrogate and collate our findings together. We also envisage our data will be of considerable use for the NASA omics’ database and the scientific community in general, particularly through the iPlant portal (see letter of collaboration).

Project Details

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Principal Investigator

Norman Lewis
Washington State University

Team Members

Shawn Starkenburg
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Kim Hixson
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Mary Lipton
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory