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The SnRK1 signaling pathway – connecting environmental stress and plant growth

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Adverse environmental conditions have a strong impact on plant growth and development. Often associated with stress is a reduction in photosynthesis and/or respiration, resulting in an energy deficit that activates the highly conserved SnRK1 (Snf1-Related protein Kinase 1) protein kinase, the plant ortholog of yeast Snf1 and mammalian AMPK . SnRK1s coordinate nutrient remobilization, growth, and storage and promote stress tolerance through the regulation of key biosynthetic enzymes and over a thousand genes. Accordingly, SnRK1 deficiency is associated with a diminished ability of plants to tolerate abiotic and biotic stress. In addition, SnRK1 has an impact on development, from seed germination to reproduction and senescence, suggesting that these kinases serve as integration points of metabolic, hormonal and environmental signals to finely orchestrate plant growth. Despite the relevance of SnRK1 kinases for plant´s life, virtually nothing is known about how the pathway operates. To address this, we are currently undertaking several complementary strategies to understand how SnRK1 is regulated, to uncover novel components of the pathway and to identify cellular processes that are under SnRK1 control. As an example, our work aimed at understanding SnRK1 regulation through phosphorylation, has unraveled clade A type 2C protein phosphatases (PP2Cs), established repressors of the ABA pathway, as negative regulators of SnRK1 signaling, thereby providing a molecular explanation for the extensive genetic interactions reported between sugar and ABA signaling. Release of PP2C inhibition by the ABA -bound PYR /PYL receptor activates simultaneously SnRK1 and ABA signaling thereby triggering a more robust stress response through complementary gene expression and metabolic readjustments. Many of the processes affected by the SnRK1 pathway are also under ABA control, and therefore understanding how these two central pathways crosstalk may offer new insight not only into the mechanisms of stress tolerance, but also into fundamental processes like seed maturation and germination.

This talk is part of the Sainsbury Laboratory Seminars series.

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