Spain – EoI 1008

Our research group has developed several lines of research within the area of Plant Protection:
a) Mode of action of Bacillus thuringiensis entomopathogenic toxins in target insect pests
Bacillus thuringienesis (Bt) Cry toxins constitute the most extensively used environmentally safe biopesticide and their mode of action relies on the interaction of the toxins with membrane proteins in the midgut of susceptible insects that mediate toxicity and insect specificity. Our research group has many years of experience identifying Bt Cry toxin interacting proteins in the midgut of several target insects and understanding their role in toxicity as well as studying how insects respond to toxins action because both issues are key to exploit their insecticidal action and design strategies to improve crop protection.
b) Natural plant defense mechanisms against pathogens and insects attack
To survive the exposure to various biotic and abiotic stresses plants have evolved intricate mechanisms to perceive external signals allowing optimal response to environmental conditions. Moreover, plants are able to develop induced resistance by activating an alarmed state, which enhances their defensive capacity against future pathogen or insect attacks. Our research group has been involved in coordinated projects aiming at analyzing the effect of natural compounds such hexanoic acid as plant defense priming agents and characterizing the underlying molecular mechanisms of defense, particularly against insect attack.
c) Early detection of plant stress using biomarkers of biotic and abiotic stress
Among the different biomolecules that differentially accumulate in plants undergoing biotic or abiotic stress, microRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding endogenous RNAs, can be developed as novel stress biomarkers due to their relevant role regulating gene expression at posttranscriptional level. Our research group has used high-throughput techniques to provide genome-wide identification of stress-associated miRNAs under various biotic (pathogens and insects) and abiotic (drought, temperature) stresses in tomato plants.
d) Impact of the insect gut microbiome in adaptation of plants to climate change
Exploiting natural microbial communities for improved plant performance in integrated plant disease management systems appears as a promising effective alternative since microorganisms have been proved beneficial for plants directly by enhancing crop nutrition or indirectly by reducing damage caused by pathogens or environmental stress. Our research group is currently involved in a project to identify gut bacterial communities in Colorado potato beetle larvae fed on tomato varieties resistant to drought and high temperature by means of metagenomic analysis using 16 S rRNA amplicon sequencing, and to investigate their potential to promote adaptation of tomato plants to the new scenarios arising from global climate change in the context of sustainable agriculture.
Participation in SYSTEMIC project: Task 1 of Work Package 2

EoI responsible
Carolina Rausell
Associate Professor of Genetics (University of Valencia)

People involved

M. Dolores Real
Full Professor of Genetics (University of Valencia)

Inmaculada García Robles
Associate Professor of Genetics (University of Valencia)