Rachel Taylor

CASE – Characterization of WHIRLY1 functions in cereal crops

About me

I received a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Birmingham where I specialised my studies in plants and genetics. My final year project was to identify the cellular location of germination, which was published:

Topham, A., Taylor, R., Yan, D., Nambara, E., Johnston, I. and Bassel, G. (2017). Temperature variability is integrated by a spatially embedded decision-making centre to break dormancy in Arabidopsis seeds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(25), pp.6629-6634.

I then moved to Norwich to go on to receive an MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement at the University of East Anglia. My project, studying the effect of abiotic factors on plant immunity in Brassicaceae, was carried-out at the John Innes Centre where I thoroughly enjoyed being around other plant scientists. It was here that I decided to move to Leeds and start a PhD in crop genetics.

My project

My project is to characterise the function of the WHIRLY1 protein in wheat and maize.

WHIRLY1 is a member of a family of single stranded DNA-binding proteins with multiple functions in plants.  It dual located in both plastid and nuclei.

In chloroplasts, WHIRLY1 is required for plastid genome stability, plastid gene expression and ribosome formation.

In the nucleus, WHIRLY1 modulates telomere length and functions as a transcriptional activator of senescence- and pathogenesis-related gene expression. However, many of WHIRLY1’s roles remain poorly characterised, such as its function in plastid-nucleus retrograde signalling.

WHIRLY1 has also been implicated in the regulation of photosynthesis and stress tolerance. These are pivotal to food security with increasing populations to feed across the world. No hunger is one of the sustainable development goals set out by the UN in 2015. The majority of the world’s calories intake comes from 5 cereal crop species, 2 of which are wheat and maize. These are threatened by the predicted negative impacts of climate change and so defining the mechanisms involved in this signalling, will allow for exploitation of the innate immune and growth pathways in plants to ultimately increase crop yields.


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