Plant biotechnology

Leader of the research program: Petr Galuszka and the respective department

Modern genetics and biotechnology provide numerous tools that can be utilized for the development of crop plants with enhanced yield and higher tolerance to adverse environmental conditions. We had developed techniques for efficient transformation of barley and other cereal plants. Various genes participating on hormonal metabolism and perception were (or in the near future will be) introduced into barley genome to modulate its morphology or physiological responses. Cytokinin depleted (or over-accumulating) barley plants will serve as a model to understand the role of this phytohormone in root development, initiation of lateral root formation and floral meristems, nutrient uptake and sink activity in monocot species. So far, enhanced root proliferation and grain filling was achieved on model genotype. In the future, we would like to further explore these properties on agronomically important genotypes and to attempt to genetically modify other agronomically important characteristics such as increased grain number per plant or increased stress tolerance. Apart from modulation of endogenous phytohormonal status in cereals, other genes will be transformed into cereals, for instance ESR1/2 from AP2/ERF transcription factor family, which can significantly increase shoot regeneration efficiency in Arabidopsis, or members of ABC transporter family, used for selective antibiotics efflux and/or disease resistance. We will also test ectopically active strong promoters in monocots, especially in order to express and later purify various proteins of interest in barley endosperm. Except of plants, we will focus on genetic engineering of phytopathogenic fungi from the genus Claviceps, which on one hand represents a serious agricultural threat, for instance on African sorghum populations, and on the other hand can be used as a tool for the production of various therapeutics. In addition, we will also focus on the study of secondary metabolism regulation in order to enhance biosynthesis of ergot alkaloids. Recent accomplishment of Claviceps genome sequencing revealed putative genes involved in phytohormonal metabolism, transport and perception. Hence, possible role of phytohormones in the process of pathogenesis and virulence of Claviceps will be intensively studied to reveal unique mechanism how biotrophic fungi invade plant host.