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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: Investigating Zn homeostasis in the crop plant barley using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing

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We are investigating function of the F group bZIP transcription factors in the regulation of Zn homeostasis in barley through the generation of CRISPR mutants.

Zinc (Zn) is an essential micronutrient for successful plant growth. Zn deficiency in plants due to lack of availability in soil is a significant problem in crop plants worldwide, leading to reduced growth and a lack of Zn loading into the edible grain.

To better understand the regulation of Zn homeostasis in plants, we are investigating  F group bZIP transcription factors  in the crop plant barley. These bZIPs show varied regulation under Zn deficiency. To determine their role, knockout mutants for these F group bZIPs will be generated by CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and their growth measured under different conditions of Zn supply.

Zn-deficiency response elements (ZDREs) are found in the promoters of a number of genes in the model plant Arabidopsis that are regulated by F group bZIPs during Zn deficiency. Bioinformatic analysis will be carried out in barley to identify potential F group bZIP target genes by the presence of a ZDRE.  The ZDRE-containing genes in barley will be further investigated to determine if they are regulated by the F group bZIPs by comparing their expression in wild-type and CRISPR/Cas9-generated bzip mutants. This work will establish which genes are of key importance in reacting to Zn deficiency, providing a clearer understanding of the mechanisms involved in this response and the importance of the F-group bZIP transcription factors.

Model predicts the function of AtbZIP19 & AtbZIP23 under Zn deficiency
Growth of wild type barley
Growth of wild type barley under +Zn & –Zn conditions. Scale = 15cm

Principal Investigator: Dr Lorraine E Williams
PGR student: Rebecca Carter

Funding provider: The Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust
Funding dates: 2019-2021

Related research groups

Plants and Food Security
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