Dr. Devang Mehta
Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Thursday, March 11 10:30am – 11:30am Miller Hall 201
Over the last thirty years, several molecular events operating on the products of the central dogma processes of DNA replication, transcription and translation have been found to play an important role in controlling gene regulation in a rapid and adaptive manner in response to various external stimuli. Here, I will present unpublished work investigating the role of three such “post-genetic” phenomena: extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) production, RNA splicing, and protein phosphorylation in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. First, I will discuss on-going work studying the role of eccDNA molecules in plant responses to heat-stress through the invention of a new DNA sequencing method called CIDER-Seq. CIDER-Seq leverages the power of long-read PacBio sequencing technology to produce accurate sequences of eccDNA (and other circular DNA such as viruses) without computational sequence assembly. Using CIDER-Seq we have generated the first comprehensive sequence dataset of eccDNA in plants, gaining insights into eccDNA composition and function that have implications in stress and evolutionary biology. I will also discuss recent work using quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics that has uncovered new regulatory roles for protein phosphorylation during phosphate starvation. Collectively, these proteomics and genomics-technology driven experiments point towards an important role for genome plasticity and post-genetic regulation in plant responses to future challenges in agriculture such as rising temperatures and declining nutrient supply. Next I will describe future projects employing genomics, proteomics, genome editing, and chemical genetics approaches to investigate eccDNA and RNA splicing regulation in plants. Finally, I will briefly touch upon my work outside the lab: in science communication, research culture, and equity in science publishing with the premier open-access life science journal eLife.