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Unveiling a role for alternative splicing in plant responses to abiotic stress

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4 June 2013, 11am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee DD2 5DA
for scientists, researchers and other interested parties
Paula Duque

Dr Paula Duque of the Plant Molecular Biology group at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras in Portugal will deliver a seminar entitled "Unveiling a role for alternative splicing in plant responses to abiotic stress" at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee on 4 June 2013. It will be broadcast live to the Aberdeen site.


During the last decade, alternative splicing, which produces multiple transcripts and potentially different protein isoforms from the same gene, has emerged as a key mechanism for generating functional complexity. The prevalence of alternative splicing in many genomes suggests that this mechanism plays crucial roles in biological processes, as is emphasised by the fact that its misregulation can lead to many human diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.

Although over 60% of the intron-containing Arabidopsis thaliana genes are currently estimated to undergo alternative splicing, information on the physiological relevance of this key post transcriptional regulatory mechanism in plants is surprisingly scarce. Our work is providing functional evidence corroborating a central role for alternative splicing in plant responses to environmental stress.

Using reverse genetics, we have shown that conserved major regulators of alternative splicing, SR proteins, control plant resistance to high salinity and drought or to metabolic fluctuations during early Arabidopsis development by downregulating abiotic stress signalling via the abscisic acid (ABA) pathway. The identification of the endogenous transcripts targeted by these splicing factors to confer plant stress tolerance is underway.


Paula was a postdoc in the labs of Nam-Hai Chua and Magda Konarska at the Rockefeller University, New York, followed by a year as Assistant Professor at Queens College, City University of New York. She then took up her present position as Group Leader at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal.

Paula’s research group uses Arabidopsis as a model system and molecular/cell biology tools to investigate how plants respond to environmental cues. Her major line of work is addressing the biological significance of alternative splicing (AS) and is providing functional evidence linking AS to plant abiotic stress responses. Another ongoing project in her lab is uncovering crucial roles for membrane transporters of the Major Facilitator Superfamily (MFS) in plant responses to different environmental challenges, such as phosphate starvation.

The seminar is being hosted by Dr Craig Simpson.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.