Systems analysis of stress response in plants
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The response of plants to environmental stress spans several orders of magnitude in time and space, causing system-wide changes. These changes comprise of both protective responses and adverse reactions in the plant. Stresses like water deficit or drought cause a drastic effect in crop yield, while concomitantly agriculture consumes 1/3rd of the fresh water available to us and there is widespread water scarcity around the world. It is, hence, a fundamental goal of modern biology and applied biotechnology to unravel this complex stress response in laboratory model plants like Arabidopsis and crop models like rice. Such an understanding, especially at the cellular level, will aid in informed engineering of stress tolerance in plants. We have developed and used integrative functional genomics approaches to characterize environmental stress response at various levels of organization including genes, modules and networks in Arabidopsis and rice. We have also applied these methods in problems concerning bioenergy. Since the poor knowledge of the cellular roles of a large portion of plant genes remains a fundamental barrier to using such approaches, we have further explored the problem of 'gene function prediction'. And, finally, as a contribution to the community, we have curated a large mutant resource for the crop model, rice, and established a web resource for exploratory analysis of abiotic stress in this model. All together, this work presents insights into several facets of stress response, offers numerous novel predictions for experimental validation, and provides principled analysis frameworks for systems level analysis of environmental stress response in plants.
- Doctoral Dissertations