How do we gain a higher crop yield from the same amount of crops?

Problem Title

How do we gain a higher crop yield from the same amount of crops?

Scientific Title

Ectopic Expression of Three Cold-Induced Components for Vernalization Sufficiency

Student: 
Katelyn Richards
Major(s): 
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
iCons Concentration: 
Biomedicine
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2017
Executive Summary 

Have you ever wondered how genes are researched in plants to lead to higher agricultural yields? Many agricultural crops use a process known as vernalization in order to optimize their flowering times, which in turn leads to higher agricultural yields. Vernalization is the process by which prolonged exposure to the winter cold turns a particular gene off through an epigenetic switch so that the plant can then flower in the spring. Currently, the mechanism that leads to this particular gene getting turned off after the vernalization response is triggered is not well understood, and therefore is the focus of my research. In the model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana, the gene FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), which is a floral expressor, is the gene that gets epigenetically repressed after the vernalization response is triggered. It is known that FLC is repressed after vernalization by the polycomb repressive 2 (PCR2) complex; however, it is not well understood which parts of the complex are triggered by vernalization. Interestingly, a protein known as VIN3, and two long noncoding RNAs known as COOLAIR and COLDAIR, are upregulated by prolonged cold exposure, aka after vernalization begins. VIN3 is a part of the PCR2 complex, and it is believed that COOLAIR and COLDAIR work with this complex to lead to repression of FLC. Therefore, it is hypothesized that simultaneous upregulation of VIN3, COLDAIR, and COOLAIR would be sufficient to lead to epigenetic silencing of FLC, and mimic the vernalization response. This would be researched by creating transgenic lines to ultimately create a line that overexpresses VIN3, COOLAIR, and COLDAIR, then monitor the flowering time without cold exposure to see if it mimics the vernalization response. By better understanding what genes are sufficient to mimic the vernalization response then these genes may be able to be manipulated in future research to lead to perfecting flowering times, and thus higher yields from the same amount of crops.

Problem Keywords: 
genetics
agriculture
Scientific Keywords: 
vernalization