Texas Tech University

Liu advances in Institute of Genomics for Crop Abiotic Stress Tolerance

Norman Martin

August 28, 2023

Degao Liu, an international expert in cell biology specializing in plant genome editing and photosynthesis engineering, has been named an assistant professor within Texas Tech University's Department of Plant & Soil Science, according to officials within the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. He officially steps into his new research post on Sept. 1.

Liu will be working within Davis College's leading scientific team - the Institute of Genomics for Crop Abiotic Stress Tolerance. Liu is expected to lead projects involving development of gene transfer and gene-editing technologies, combining fundamental research and education with applications to improvement of environmental stress tolerance of crops, especially but not limited to, cotton, sorghum, and other crops relevant to West Texas agriculture.

One of Liu's primary goals at Texas Tech is to develop high-throughput genome editing methods in crops.

“Genome editing has become powerful tools for plant functional genetics research and the genetic improvement of agricultural crops,” Liu said. “However, the application of gene-editing for crop improvement has been slow, due to inefficient methods of reagent delivery and the reliance on tissue culture to create gene edited plants.”

Liu noted there is a need for novel, alternative approaches to create gene-edited crops more efficiently. Tissue culture-free genome editing technologies enable large-scale gene editing in crops. The development of tissue culture-independent methods and other high-throughput gene editing technologies has the potential to expedite crop genetic improvement.

Prior to joining Texas Tech as an IGCAST researcher, Liu served as a Researcher 5 at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, working in heritable gene editing using RNA virus and De novo induction of gene-edited meristems. He also worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Minnesota and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and postdoctoral research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Liu received his bachelor's degree in biotechnology from Shandong Agricultural University in China. His doctorate in Plant Genetics & Breeding is from China Agricultural University in China.

Led by Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, the high-profile IGCAST research group examines how plants adapt to thrive in the presence of environmental stresses such as extreme heat and cold, drought and in the presence of brackish water sources. Herrera-Estrella's arrival at Texas Tech was made possible by a $5 million grant from the State of Texas Governor's University Research Initiative and matched by the university to bring the best and brightest researchers to Texas.

IGCAST was established in 2020 with a mission of conducting top-ranked research and graduate education on the use of functional and population genomics to understand the molecular mechanisms that determine resilience of crops and related wild species to adverse environmental stresses in the era of climate change.

The research group aims at integrating an interdisciplinary team of scientists to conduct internationally competitive, multidisciplinary research to study physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms and plant architecture underlying resistance to environmental stresses, contributing to the development of sustainable agriculture.


This story was first published in the Davis College NewsCenter. See the original article here.