GRAD STUDENT SOON-KI HAN RECEIVES UPENN DISSERTATION COMPLETION FELLOWSHIP

Climate change predictions suggest a loss of arable lands for crops at a time when we will likely face increased food demands due to a rise in the world population. Generation of drought tolerant crop species is therefore a high priority. Broad drought tolerance is achieved only when plants can resist multiple challenges simultaneously, such as water deficit plus high heat or light intensity, as these environmental cues show more than additive effects on plant survival. I reasoned that broad drought tolerance may depend on broad alterations in the transcriptional program of plants. It has been known for a long time that chromatin is situated at the interface between environmental cues and the accessible genome. In my Ph.D research, I therefore have explored the link between chromatin regulators known to alter genome accessibility, the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling ATPases, and drought stress response in the plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana. My study has two general impacts. Firstly, it provides mechanistic insight how environmental stress dependent genome accessibility is regulated by the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelers. Secondly, it contributes to our understanding of the drought stress response-pathway, which is crucial for our ability to enhance plant tolerance to water stress.

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