Today, Max and Benjamin are transplanting potato plantlets from tissue culture to soil. These plantlets overexpress a gene that strongly respond to Potato Virus Y inoculation. In a few weeks, we will test the resistance of these plants to various strains of PVY.
Our current research aims to understand the metabolism of the B vitamins folate and thiamin in plants. These micronutrients are essential to humans, and deficiencies are common throughout the world and linked to serious diseases. Specifically, we are investigating genetic and environmental factors that control folate and thiamin accumulation in potato tubers to find strategies that maximize the nutritional content of potatoes. In addition, we are pursuing biotechnology approaches to boost thiamin content in rice grain, a very poor source of thiamin, and further our understanding of thiamin regulation in grain. We are also investigating thiamin damage repair mechanisms and their importance in maintaining a functional metabolism in plants. In addition, we are studying the interactions between potato and Potato Virus Y (PVY), a pathogen that is currently threatening the potato industry, and are trying to identify control methods against PVY. Our research involves a combination of molecular biology, genetics, next-generation sequencing, biochemistry, and metabolite profiling approaches in potato, Arabidopsis and rice.