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At ncRNA-lab we are interested in decipher the regulatory pathways mediated by non coding RNAs (mainly small ncRNAs) for a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that allow crops to respond and eventually adapt to biotic and abiotic stress conditions.

Research lines


Regulatory networks of response to stress mediated by miRNAs

Regulatory networks of response to stress mediated by miRNAsIn general, plants respond to changes in environmental conditions through a complex transcriptional reprogramming. These transcriptional alterations are integrated into multi-layered regulatory networks able to modulate the interplay between the plant and the environmental stimuli. However, the mechanistic aspects and the architecture of the regulatory networks involved in the fine regulation of gene expression related to stress response remains unknown. miRNAs modulate the recovery of plant-cell homeostasis under adverse environmental conditions, however, there are fundamental questions that remain unanswered, such as: a) what kind of miRNA networks plants utilize in order to respond to environmental stress, b) how the miRNA-mediated response to diverse biotic and abiotic stress situations is regulated, and c) if the knowledge gathered in model plants is suitable to be directly transferred to major agricultural crops.

Our main scientific objective is contribute to elucidate how the miRNA-mediated regulatory pathways ultimately control gene expression and functionally connects plant responses with stress conditions. This knowledge is pivotal for a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that enable plants to respond and eventually adapt to the environmental changes. Figure

Differential processing of miRNAs in response to stress

miRNAs are fundamental endogenous regulators of gene expression in higher organisms. miRNAs modulate multiple biological processes in plants. Consequently, miRNA accumulation is strictly controlled through miRNA precursor accumulation and processing. Our work is focused in provide new insights regarding the versatility of plant miRNA processing and the mechanisms regulating them as well as the hypothetical mechanism for the response to stress in melon, which is based on the alternative regulation of miRNA biogenesis. Figure

Viroids-host interactions

Viroids are a class of sub-viral plant-pathogenic long noncoding RNAs (240-400 nt) composed of a circular single-stranded molecule. Viroid infection comprises a series of coordinated steps involving: a) intracellular compartmentalization for replication; b) export to neighboring cells; and c) entry to vascular tissue for long-distance trafficking to distant plant organs. Since they lack protein-coding activity, viroids are compelled to subvert endogenous lncRNA-directed regulatory routes to complete their life cycle in the infected cell. We employ host-viroid interactions as experimental system to study cellular biology aspects related to the elucidation of the lncRNA-directed regulatory pathways in plants. Figure

Viroids-host interactions


Epigenetic regulation of the plant-environment interplay

Eukaryotic organisms exposed to adverse conditions are required to show a certain degree of transcriptional plasticity in order to cope successfully with stress. Epigenetic regulation of the genome is a key regulatory mechanism allowing dynamic changes of the transcriptional status of the plant in response to stress. However, in many cases the mechanist details underlying this phenomenon have not been completely elucidated. To address this issue we use a combination of next-generation sequencing techniques, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and mathematical modeling to characterize the dynamic changes in epigenetic marks ongoing in cucumber and melon plants exposed to biotic and abiotic stress conditions. Figure