College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
AGNR Research

ENST Faculty Member Invited Speaker at Gordon Research Conference in Italy

Dr. Wendy Peer, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, will present her research findings related to hormone transporters in plants at the Gordon Research Conference in Italy (April 26- May 1).

In a world struggling to provide food for its current inhabitants and facing an ever-expanding population, the search for more sustainable and efficient ways to produce food has become one of the priorities of modern research. Dr. Peer has been studying the secrets behind the successful development of seedlings for two decades – research that could eventually help improve crop production by at least 20%.

“My research lab employs a blend of techniques to elucidate mechanisms functioning at cellular, organismal, and ecosystem scales,” notes Peer. “My research is about how the plants can integrate the signals from the environment with the endogenous signals within the plant so that the seedling can grow into a successful plant.”

Seedling establishment is the critical stage in plant growth and development when:

1) The root must penetrate into the soil so that it can successfully acquire water and nutrients.

2) The shoot must elongate and leaves must expand to begin photosynthetic activity.

3) The discontinuous embryonic vasculature must mature to accommodate transport of water, nutrients and photosynthate.

Peer’s primary research focuses on how plant developmental programming is modified by environmental inputs in seedling establishment and how redox and hormonal signaling modifies programmed growth responses. This includes the use of genomic, metabolomics, cell-biological, biochemical, physiological, and molecular genetic tools. The work is conducted in model systems, such as Arabidopsis, yeast and prokaryotes, but is extended into crop plants, trees, and weed species to resolve specific needs and questions.

The theme of the Gordon Research Conference is “Multi-Drug Efflux Systems”, and Dr. Peer will be sharing her research findings entitled: "Trafficking of ABCB Hormone Transporters Is Regulated by Sphingolipids and Stress-Responsive Endocytosis.” Auxin is an essential, multifunctional plant hormone that influences virtually every aspect of plant growth and development, and the ABCB transporters are one of the three classes of transporters responsible for moving auxin throughout the plant. These trafficking mechanisms at the cellular level are important to regulate how much of the hormone auxin is transported in the whole plant so that the plant can adapt to the current situation, such as drought or salt stress. This will enable the seedlings to thrive.

By elucidating the regulation behind these transport mechanisms, Dr. Peer’s ultimate aim would be to establish new sustainable strategies to assure food and energy security in both the developed and developing world.

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