Texas Tech University

IGCAST Research in Progress

Improvement of cotton growth and yield performance under drought stress with the employment of zinc oxide nanoparticles 

Start date: 01/22

Principle Investigator: Dr. Son Tran, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: Current global climate change worsens the drought effects on cotton productivity in the US, as well as other parts of the world. Therefore, devising solutions to improve cotton acclimatization under drought have received implausible attentions from plant scientists worldwide. Besides biotechnological approaches, treatment of plants with nanoparticles (NPs) has recently emerged as a promising nanotechnological approach to overcome drought impacts on crop productivity. In this project, we will investigate the comparative effects of zinc oxide NPs (ZnO-NPs) and ZnO in improvement of drought tolerance of an elite cotton cultivar by examining various growth-and yield-related attributes. We will also focus on how these exogenous molecules modulate key physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms associated with cotton tolerance to drought. In particular, we will compare dose-dependent effects of exogenous ZnO-NPs and ZnO on growth parameters, photosynthetic traits, oxidative stress indicators, antioxidant defense mechanisms, osmotic adjustments, mineral homeostasis, and expression of genes associated with key defense pathways in cotton under drought. The outcome of this project will identify the comparative efficiency of ZnO-NPs and ZnO in delivering Zn mineral to cotton tissues, boosting physiological and biochemical mechanisms and enhancing cotton yield potential under water-limited conditions. 

Collaborators:Dr. Mohamamd G Mostofa, Research Scientist, Texas Tech University, Md. Mezanur Rahman, Ph. D. Student, Texas Tech University, Sanjida Sultana Keya, Ph. D. Student, Texas Tech University.

Combining chemical and genetic strategies for improvement of growth and yield potential in soybean under drought

Start date: 10/21

Principle Investigator: Dr. Son Tran, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: Drought is a paramount problem in world agriculture, undermining the growth and development of numerous leguminous crops, including soybean. Soybean productivity in the United States has been increasingly threatened by drought episodes. Therefore, finding solutions to improve soybean acclimatization under drought has significant importance in sustaining soybean production. In this project, we aim to investigate how a promising signaling molecule, namely ethanol, can improve drought tolerance in contrasting soybean varieties by investigating key physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms and yield-related attributes. Moreover, the revelation of associated molecular mechanisms by comparative analyses of drought-tolerant and -susceptible varieties will allow us to identify a genetic signature for further improvement of drought tolerance in soybean by genetic engineering using overexpression or gene-editing approach. Overall, our project will (i) elucidate the potential physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms associated with ethanol-based solution to reduce drought effects on soybean growth and productivity, (ii) identify gene candidate(s) for development of transgenic soybean varieties by genetic engineering, and (iii) evaluate the effects of ethanol application on yield and nutritional attributes of drought-exposed soybean varieties. Successful completion of this proposed research will offer ethanol-based cost-effective sustainable soybean production system with immediate agronomic and economic benefits to soybean cultivation in drought-prone areas worldwide.

Collaborators: Dr. Mohamamd G Mostofa, Research Scientist, Texas Tech University, Md. Mezanur Rahman, Ph. D. Student, Texas Tech University, Sanjida Sultana Keya, Ph. D. Student, Texas Tech University. 

Funding By: United Soybean Board

Addressing environmental stresses on crops by applications of various chemicals and biostimulants

General Applied Res Program Figure

Start Date: 09/21

Principle Investigator: Dr. Son Tran, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: Although biotechnological approach is promising in dealing with various types of stresses, restrictive regulations of the products of genetically modified crops and inadequate investment in biotechnological research and development in many low-income countries remain inhibitory factors for wide applications of plant biotechnology to increase agricultural productivity. Thus, simple and cost-effective technologies should also be developed, which could provide clean organic technology applicable in both low- and high-income countries for ensuring sustainable agricultural outputs. In this context, exploration of the potential roles of growth regulators, including various signaling molecules, nanoparticles, biostimulants and useful microbes, may provide an effective solution for the improvement of plant resistance to adverse environmental conditions. Under this research objective, mitigating effects of various plant growth regulators will be assessed on different crops of interest under different stress conditions, and the associated physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms will be identified. Finding cost-effective measures for efficient mitigation of adverse environmental effects on crop productivity will facilitate achievement of food security and sustainable agricultural productivity for ever-increasing population in many countries of the world.

Collaborators: Drs. Chien Ha and Mohammad G Mostofa, Research Scientists, IGCAST, Dr. Huong Nguyen, Research Associate, IGCAST, Mezanur Rahman and Sanjida Keya, Ph. D. Students, IGCAST

Funding By: United Soybean Board and Cotton Incorporated.

Roles of strigolactones, cytokinin and their interaction in plant heat stress responses

Start Date: 09/21

Principle Investigator: Dr. Son Tran, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: Abiotic stresses, including high temperatures, negatively affect plant yield worldwide requiring the development of efficient strategies for generating stress-resilient crops. In this project, we will analyze the roles of strigolactone (SL)-signaling and cytokinin (CK)-signaling and their interaction in plant responses to heat stress. The Arabidopsis thaliana loss-of-function mutants of SL-signaling or CK-signaling or both SL-signaling and CK-signaling pathways will be used in this study. To identify the downstream genes/pathways mediated by SL-signaling and/or CK-signaling in plant heat stress responses, we will carry out comparative transcriptome analyses of these Arabidopsis mutant and wild-type (WT) plants with and without stress exposure. We will also investigate the effects of heat stress on plant growth and development, photosynthetic parameters, enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants of mutant and WT plants under normal and heat stress conditions. Results of this study will have a significant impact on the understanding of the regulatory networks modulated by SL-signaling, CK-signaling and their crosstalk in plant responses to heat stress. Furthermore, the success of this project will provide an efficient approach to improve the crop production under heat stress conditions using genetic engineering for sustainable agriculture.

Collaborators: Dr. Chien Ha, Research Scientist, IGCAST, Dr. Huoang Nguyen, Research Associate, IGCAST

Technologies to improve nutrient uptake and reduce excess fertilizer use in soybean


Start Date: 01/2021

Principle Investigator: Dr. Gunvant B. Patil, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: The goal of this project is to identify soybean lines that can efficiently uptake and utilize nutrients that are available in soil. These lines can ultimately reduce the excess application of fertilizers and micro-nutrient in the farmer's field. The long-term goal is to discover genomic loci, pinpoint the genes and understand the mechanism of selective nutrient uptake in soybean. This research will lay a foundation to develop soybean lines with nutritional seeds and higher yields. With continued support from SSRP and based on the preliminary data, we will be able to discover novel traits to secure higher yield and create a balanced nutritional profile.

Collaborators:Dr. Suhas Shinde, Research Scientist, IGCAST

Funding By: Southern Soybean Board

Development of a robust regeneration and transformation system in cotton


Start Date: 01/2021

Principle Investigator: Dr. Gunvant B. Patil, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: Genetic variation is the source and basis of plant breeding and crop improvement. However, creating novel genetic variation in crops is largely limited to classical mutagenesis, interspecific crossing and genomics-assisted breeding methods. Creating a target specific mutation in functional gene or regulatory elements offers great potential for accelerating translational research and crop improvement. However, this process can be accomplished via genetic transformation either Agrobacterium or direct delivery method. Several economically important crops (including cotton) are difficult to transform and are genotype-dependent for genetic transformation, plant regeneration, and also lacks robust and efficient delivery of gene-editing reagents. These bottlenecks have impeded the use of gene-editing on a larger scale. To overcome these technological barriers, we aim to develop a robust and widely applicable genetic transformation system in cotton and simultaneously expand the use of this newly developed technology for editing cotton genome to create novel quantitative variants.

Collaborators: Dr. Vikas Devkar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, IGCAST 

Funding By: TTU-BASF (Project Revolution)

Next generation soybeans with durable resistance to multiple soybean cyst nematode (SCN) races through genome engineering of Rhg4

meristem research cotton plant IGCAST

Start Date: 10/2020

Principle Investigator: Dr. Gunvant B. Patil, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: The soybean varieties carrying the commonly used rhg1 from PI 88788 are losing the war with SCN in the field. On the other hand, the resistance derived from Peking, which contains Rhg4, works very well in the field. Our recent study also indicates that higher copy numbers of Rhg4 in PI 437654 leads to higher expression of Rhg4 and therefore stronger resistance to multiple SCN races. Therefore, the proposed project aims to develop innovative genetic strategies for enhancing soybean resistance to multiple SCN races by increasing the Rhg4 expression via over-expression and promoter editing using CRISPR/Cas9 to improve resistance to multiple SCN races.

Collaborators: Dr. Vikas Devkar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, IGCAST 

Funding By: United Soybean Board

Genome-wide dissection of the regulation of epicuticular wax in sorghum: the first defense line against environmental threats

meristem research cotton plant IGCAST

Start Date: 9/2020

Principle Investigator: Dr. Yinping Jiao, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: The epicuticular wax on the surface of plants is the first defense line against abiotic and biotic stress. Sorghum, important bioenergy and versatile crop, is also an excellent model to study the regulation of epicuticular wax. Compared with major grass crops including maize and rice, sorghum accumulates a much heavier layer of wax on the surface. The wax contributes to the high water-use efficiency, and other abiotic and biotic stress tolerance in sorghum. Our previous work identified a key gene involved in the biosynthesis of epicuticular wax in sorghum. This gene was not reported in other species and does not have homologs in Arabidopsis, which indicates that sorghum harbors its unique mechanism to maintain the high load wax to resist the stresses from the environment.
With the long-term goal of improving the resilience of crops to abiotic and biotic stresses, we are dissecting the pathway of the synthesis of epicuticular wax in sorghum by a systems biology approach. In this approach, we combine the multiple-omics data including the classic genetics of the large mutant population, genomics data, transcriptome profiling and biochemistry analysis. This project will also reveal the mechanism of the evolution of this trait in the plant kingdom.

Regulatory network and crosstalk among signaling molecules in plant responses to environmental stress

Metabolic and Signaling Pathways Figure 

Start Date: 09/2020

Principle Investigator: Dr. Son Tran, Faculty, IGCAST

Abstract: Identification and dissection of the detailed functions of each member of the cytokinin, strigolactone and karrikin signaling pathways in plant adaptation to environmental stresses are important and of great challenge. Specifically, we will characterize the functions of selected members of these hormone-signaling pathways, as well as study their crosstalk in plant responses and resistance to the adverse environmental stressors using systems biology approaches, including phenomics, functional genomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics and hormonomics.
Alteration in the content of one hormone can affect the homeostasis of other hormone(s) under either normal or stress conditions. Thus, we will collect various Arabidopsis individual hormone-deficient or hormone-overproducing mutants and examine the change in homeostasis and metabolism of all other hormones in different organs of each mutant under normal and various stress conditions. Obviously, this project can also be applied to crop(s) of interest as appropriate mutants can be generated using gene-editing technology. Findings from these projects not only enable us to gain in-depth understanding of hormonal regulatory network and hormone interactions in plant stress responses but also provide us with ideas for efficient applications of hormone biology in environmental stress resistance-oriented plant biotechnology.

Collaborators: Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella, Director, IGCAST,  Drs. Chien Ha, Golam Mostofa and Ricardo Aarón Chávez Montes, Research Associate, IGCAST and Mezanur Rahman and Sanjida Keya, PhD Students, IGCAST


The meristem: a pathway to transform cotton plants

meristem research cotton plant IGCAST

Start Date: 8/2019

Principle Investigator: Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella, Director, IGCAST

Abstract: The transfer of genes from one organism to another is a natural process that creates variation in biological traits. This concept underlies all attempts to improve agriculturally important species expressing good agronomic characteristics. The advantage of genetic engineering is that it can help to improve plant characters by the direct transfer of one or just a few genes; and, the crop improvement can be achieved in a shorter time compared to conventional breeding. Tissue culture techniques are widely used to create genetically engineered plants. However, this technique is extremely laborious. Therefore, in our lab, we are exploring and applying concepts within the field of developmental biology to improve the obtention of genetically modified plants without culture tissue techniques. We are taking advantage of determination of cell fate in shoot meristem as a pathway to ensure stable inheritance of transferred genes in the progeny of cotton plants. 

Collaborators: Dr. Dolores Alanis-Gutierrez, Postdoctoral Research Associate, IGCAST and Dr. Lenin E. Yong-Villalobos, Postdoctoral Research Associate, IGCAST

Epigenetic strategies for cotton improvement

cotton boll

Start Date: 1/2020

Principle Investigator: Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella, Director, IGCAST

Abstract: The hypothesis of this proposal is that chemically or genetically induced methylation changes in cotton can generate epialleles to produce new varieties that address the increasing challenges of cotton production. These challenges are directly correlated with yield performance, fiber yield and quality, environmental factors such as drought and soil fertility, and biological factors such as plant pests and diseases. Hence, cotton crop production can highly benefit from cotton epigenomics to enhance its performance in adverse environmental conditions. It is expected that epigenetic changes could alter gene expression leading to morphological or physiological changes that increase yield. Moreover, it has been reported that changes in DNA methylation and chromatin structure increase recombination frequencies and favor gene amplification processes, therefore, it is possible that by chemically or genetically inducing changes in DNA methylation could lead to an increase in both epigenetic and genetic variants with improved stress tolerance or fiber quality traits.

Collaborators: Dr. Lenin Villalobos-Yong, Postdoctoral Research Associate, IGCAST

Funding By: Cotton Incorporated


Institute of Genomics for Crop Abiotic Stress Tolerance

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    Texas Tech University, Institute of Genomics for Crop Abiotic Stress Tolerance, 1006 Canton Ave, Lubbock, TX 79409
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