FISVE (Fisiologia Vegetale)

Plant cell walls are the first line of defense against pathogen attack and regulate growth under physiological and stress conditions. Plant cells constantly monitor wall integrity to adjust growth and modulate defenses. We have shown that plants with altered pectin composition constitutively express defense responses and are more resistant to infections, but are severely impaired in growth. 
Plants can detect invading microbes by perceiving elicitors, called Pathogen- and Damage-Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs and DAMPs), that trigger PAMP-Triggered Immunity (PTI). Examples of PAMPs and DAMPs are chitin in fungal cell walls and oligogalacturonides (OGs), pectin fragments released from the plant cell wall by fungal polygalacturonases (PGs), respectively. We have characterized the main components of the signalling pathways linking OG perception to downstream responses.  Activation of PTI is costly and, in the absence of pathogen pressure, might reduce fitness. On the other hand, plants treated with elicitors acquire a “primed” status and respond more efficiently to subsequent infections. Current research aims to characterize the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon and the trade-off between defense and growth in plants. Futhermore, lignocellulosic biomass is a promising source of sustainable biofuels and chemicals, but its use is hampered by its recalcitrance to enzymatic deconstruction. Current research in the lab aims to find biotechnological solutions to improve conversion of biomasses into simple sugars, both modifying the plant cell wall composition and searching for novel sources of degrading enzymes. We are also studying the use of lignocellulosic sugars to grow microalgae with the aim of producing biodiesel and nutraceuticals. This in the view of a circular economy for the recovery of plant products with high added value to be reused in agriculture.

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