Ana Assuncao

Ana Assuncao

Associate Professor

 

My research interests are plant nutrition and plant abiotic stress adaptation and evolution, with focus on deficiency and excess of metal micronutrients. Since 2015 I am the PI of a team that investigates the regulation of zinc homeostasis in plants:

 

Regulation of plant zinc homeostasis team

 

Zinc is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms, as key structural and catalytic component of many proteins. Zinc deficiency in agricultural soils, in crops and in the human diet are global problems of increasing visibility (www.harvestplus.org). Understanding the molecular basis of plant response to zinc deficiency can help improving crop zinc-use-efficiency and adaptation to zinc deficient soils. Such plant-based solutions can help tackling global challenges (e.g. increasing the nutritional quality of crops, adapting crops to climate change).

 

Maintaining zinc homeostasis, i.e. appropriate intracellular zinc availability levels, avoiding deficiency or toxicity, requires tight regulation of plant uptake, transport, distribution and storage. Our team studies the regulation of the zinc homeostasis network in plants anchored at the Arabidopsis bZIP19 and bZIP23 transcription factors. These are the central regulators of the zinc deficiency response, and belong to the F group of the bZIP (basic leucine zipper) family.

 

With a phylogenetic analysis of plant F-bZIP family, we found evidence for conservation of the zinc deficiency response across land plants, which opens avenues for translational research into other plant species. Currently, our research interests are:

-          Functional and regulatory characterization of the Arabidopsis F-bZIPs, with focus on the modulation of regulatory activity by cellular zinc levels and on the role of their conserved His/Cys-rich domain.

-          Translational approach between Arabidopsis and crops (rice and tomato), with the identification and functional characterization of their F-bZIP homologues.

-          Investigating relations between the F-bZIP-based zinc deficiency response and the zinc hyperaccumulation extremophile trait.

 

Team members

Grmay Hailu Lilay – PhD student

Feixue Liao – MSc student

Pedro Humberto Castro – Postdoc researcher (@CIBIO/University Porto)

Ana Campilho – Senior researcher (@CIBIO/University Porto)

 

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