Environmental challenges such as drought and intense sunlight negatively affect plant growth, which can decrease agricultural production and cost the European economy billions of euros. Therefore it is important to understand how plants cope with drought stress. Researchers have found that different parts of the plant cell can respond to environmental stress using different molecular signals that collectively affect behavior of the plant. Interestingly, recently I discovered that a "fire alarm" protein within plant cells can sense drought stress and control production of
beneficial molecules that help the plant to survive drought stress. However, we do not yet understand how this “fire alarm” protein works together with molecular signals from other parts of the plant cell. My project will attempt to address this question, by studying plants that have an altered “fire alarm” protein in combination with plants that lack proper molecular signals from other parts of the cell. Using state-of-the-art molecular biology tools, I will integrate the study of these plants into a partial map of how different microscopic parts of the plant cell might interact and work in cooperation at the molecular level to help ensure the survival of the plant during drought stress. The results from this project can be applied in the long term to enable new strategies for engineering drought-tolerant crops and safeguard our agriculture against an increasingly challenging climate.