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SUMOrice: Exploiting an emerging protein modification system, SUMOylation to boost rice yield during drought and salt stress (SUMOrice)
Start date: Apr 1, 2013, End date: Mar 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"To feed 9 billion people by 2050 is an unprecedented challenge. Rice is the food source for the majority of the world's population but also a model for cereals. Drought and related high salinity during essential periods of plant growth affects nearly all crops including the major cereals such as rice causing drastic yield losses. A major goal of plant biology is to develop crop cultivars that are ""drought and salt resistant"", defined as those that have higher yields than standard cultivars under these environmental stresses. However plant responses to drought and salinity are overlapping and complex involving many physiological pathways controlled by cascades of molecular networks. This makes engineering drought and salt resistance in crops possible but very challenging unless we identify molecular mechanisms (‘Master’ co-ordinators) that can influence multiple signalling networks to produce an integrated stress response. Crop improvement programmes that target these ‘Master’ co-ordinators will have the greatest potential for yield increase.We have discovered that SUMOylation, an emerging protein modification mechanism can be recruited to co-ordinate multiple molecular response pathways to dramatically improve plant growth on high salinity and during drought stress. This groundbreaking and exclusive discovery ideally places us to exploit this finding to generate stress resistant crops. SUMOrice is a pioneering interdisciplinary proposal that uses an innovative approach to produce novel alleles of genes regulating multiple stress signaling cascades. To achieve this we will use an unconventional blend of 2 platform technologies (SUMO proteomics, ecoTILLING) to produce drought and high salt resistant rice. SUMOrice is 5-year project that brings together a team of 4 scientists (PI (50%), postdoc, technician, senior scientist in proteomics) with complementary skills in molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry, cereal genetics and stress biology to achieve these aims."
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