CAREER: Orchestrating transcriptional reprogramming by combinatorial complexity of general transcriptional regulation and specific immune responses
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Perception of evolutionarily conserved microbial components elicits robust plant immune responses, including rapid and profound transcriptional reprogramming against pathogen attack. The signaling networks underlying plant immunity remain largely elusive. We have developed a sensitive genetic screen based on the early transcriptional changes upon pathogen signal perception. This high-throughput screen was grounded in Arabidopsis transgenic plants carrying an early and specific immune responsive marker gene FRK1 promoter fused with a luciferase (LUC) reporter. A series of mutants with altered pFRK1::LUC activity were identified from an EMS-mutagenized population and named as Arabidopsis genes governing immune gene expression (aggie). These aggie mutants exhibited distinct patterns of altered immune responses, suggesting that the mutations likely occur at different genes/pathways in plant immune signaling. Molecular cloning and biochemical characterization of these Aggie genes hold significant promise to reveal novel components in plant immune signaling and uncover mechanisms by which specific immune responsive gene expression is regulated by the general transcriptional machinery. The project will elucidate the signaling networks underlying plant immunity and provide enriched genetic resources for manipulation of crops with broad-spectrum and durable resistance. Our aggie-luc screen was specifically tailored for undergraduate students, and will provide training for graduate and postdoctoral researchers. The project includes an innovative and comprehensive education and outreach program centering on Green Immunology with seminars, lectures and cutting-edge research experiences for high school and undergraduate students, particularly underrepresented minority students in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.