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Published January 18, 2022
A University of Wyoming researcher and her colleague recently received a grant to increase the understanding of plant water limitations across various species.
Carmela Rosaria (Lina) Guadagno, an associate research scientist in the UW Department of Botany, and colleague Marilyn Gunner, a professor at the City College of New York, received the grant from the Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative (AG2PI) to develop a genomic study across plant species and to build associations for plants’ abilities to grow under limited water conditions.
The research will begin early this year and will run for 12 months. Guadagno is the lead project investigator for the project, titled “Cross-species Genomic Analysis of Photosystem II: Building Connections from Molecular Structure to Phenotype.”
Guadagno and Gunner will create a sequence dataset to improve understanding of how various crop species -- such as those from the Brassicaceae flowering plant family, tomato and others -- respond to water limitations with particular attention to photosystem II, an essential protein in photosynthesis. Modeled water affinity across species will be used to build associations for the ability of plants to grow and strive under water limitations.
“Receiving support from the AG2PI community will give Professor Gunner and I the opportunity to test our emerging hypothesis for a mechanistic role of water in the process of desiccation at the molecular level across the plant kingdom,” Guadagno says. “We can consider this an emerging idea that we have started to test, with Marilyn more consistently only during the last couple of years. However, this project results from a 10-year effort in characterizing the cross-scale mechanisms underpinning plant response to water limitations here at UW and with outstanding collaborators across the country.”
She adds that Gunner will perform molecular simulations on protein crystal structures to explore water affinity across species.
“This is a cutting-edge computational methodology that will allow for a truly mechanistic understanding of photosystem II behavior under water limitations with far-reaching impacts on current whole plant process models for plant productivity and downstream implications on crop breeding,” Guadagno says.
She joined the UW Department of Botany in Professor Brent Ewers’ lab in 2011 as a postdoctoral researcher. Guadagno progressed to an associate research scientist position in 2017, which is currently supported through UW’s EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) office.
Guadagno and Gunner’s project is among 11 seed grants awarded by AG2PI to 20 institutions across the country in the second of three rounds of grant competition. Awarded grants help to address genome to phenome issues and develop solutions for research needs while identifying gaps and sharing opportunities.
AG2PI is a three-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The goal of AG2PI is to connect crop and livestock scientists to one another and to those working in data science, statistics, engineering and social sciences to identify shared problems and collaborate on solutions.
This round of seed grants spans three levels: emerging grants, enabling grants and establishing grants. Award amounts range from $20,000-$75,000, depending on the grant type and associated funding level.
Guadagno received her bachelor’s degree (2004) in biology; her master’s degree (2007) in plant biology; and her doctoral degee (2011) in applied biology, all from the University of Naples-Federico II in Italy. She was an exchange doctoral student at the University of California-Berkeley in 2009-2010.