New York University biologists will study the response of rice, a food staple for half the world’s population, to environmental change under a four-year, $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Plant Genome Research Program.
The study will be headed by NYU’s Michael Purugganan and Richard Bonneau, who are part of the university’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, in collaboration with Endang Septiningsih of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
Plants are continuously exposed to multiple environmental signals and must respond to the dynamic conditions found in nature. Because so much of the world relies on rice as a food source, its survival around the globe is vital. The researchers hope that by understanding how it adapts to environmental change as well as how it functions under stable climates, they can pave the way for the development of crops that can thrive under a range of circumstances.
Under the NSF grant, the researchers will explore how the gene networks in the rice leaf are linked to changing environmental conditions—in particular, temperature and water availability. They will conduct laboratory-based experiments and develop advanced computer algorithms for the study. They also plan to analyze gene expressions of rice in a variety of terrains, from crops grown on hillsides to those harvested in paddy fields. The results of their research will allow plant breeders to understand how plants genetically respond to changes in temperature, as well as develop varieties that can withstand drought conditions.
Faculty at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology are combining genomic and systems biology approaches to understand how changes in genomes give rise to the diversity of regulatory networks in microbes, animals, and plants. For more, click here.