Paula Duque

Paula Duque

ABSTRACT: A ROLE FOR ALTERNATIVE SPLICING IN PLANT TOLERANCE TO ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS

We would like to present the abstract of our keynote speaker – Paula Duque – the Group Leader at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC). She, together with her group, uses arabidopsis as a model system and combines reverse genetics, physiology and biochemistry to investigate how plants perceive and respond to environmental cues at the molecular level. Alternative mRNA splicing, which generates multiple transcripts from the same gene, is a highly prevalent posttranscriptional gene expression regulation mechanism in eukaryotic genomes. While alternative splicing has been shown to determine key biological processes in animal systems and its misregulation is associated with many human diseases, the functional significance of this molecular mechanism in plants remains poorly understood. As a potent generator of proteome diversity that is markedly affected by external cues in plants, alternative splicing is likely to play an important role in the ability of these sessile organisms to cope with environmental stress. Arginine/serine-rich (SR) proteins are highly conserved RNA-binding factors that play crucial roles in the regulation of alternative splicing. I will describe how our lab’s characterization of these splicing factors in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is providing functional links between alternative splicing and plant stress responses, particularly those mediated by the abscisic acid (ABA) hormone, which is crucial in conferring tolerance to the most pervasive causes of loss of crop productivity worldwide.