Molecular factors ensuring effective adaptability of Hedera to high light.

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation

Main Supervisor:

Alexander Ruban

School of biological and Chemical Sciences, QMUL

Second Supervisor:

Ilia Leitch

Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, KEW

Project Description:

Hedera is a plant with remarkable adaptability to a variable light environment. It is capable of growing in shaded environments, where almost no other plants can live, and yet well-capable of protecting itself against very high light exposure. Nothing is known about the works of the photosynthetic machinery of this genus. Our preliminary data suggest that the plant is likely to adjust its light capturing capacity in shade as well as tune its phoroprotective ability to extraordinary extremes. This program is aimed at studying the light acclimation at a variety of levels: leaf, isolated chloroplast and individual photosynthetic proteins. This will enable us to identify key factors that are essential for enabling Hedera to possess its unique light adaptation. The program is of crucial importance since it is aimed at revealing the molecular eco-physiological “secrets” of the global success of one of the most invasive cosmopolitan plants on Earth. The essential feature of this project is that it is multidisciplinary, bringing together the plant ecophysiology, molecular biology, biochemistry and structural biology expertise of the PI’s laboratory at QMUL and supported by the botanist at Kew Gardens Dr Leitch.
Objective 1. To find out why ivy species acclimate so well to shade?
Objective 2. To identify the molecular factors that ensure the effective adaptation of ivy to light quality in shaded environments: state transitions.
Objective 3. To identify the molecular factors that ensure effective adaptation of ivy to continuous and fluctuating high light.

Policy Impact of Research:

Discovery of the molecular factors that make Hedera exceptionally adaptive to the light environment provides an opportunity to better understand photosynthetic adaptations. Companies involved in developing methods to control invasive species or improve plant productivity and survival will benefit from the outcome of this project.


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