Understanding the function of GIPCs in barley root adaptation to salinity

Soil salinity is a major agriculture problem resulting in the decreased growth and yield of crops.

In Australia, two thirds of the cereal growing regions are affected by salinity, significantly reducing crop yield and costing the farming industry around $1.5 billion a year. Most research to improve crop performance and yield has focused on shoot traits, mainly due to the inherent difficulties associated with observing and measuring root systems. However, many environmental stresses including drought and salinity directly impact soil properties and the crop root system.

Halotropism (negative) is the adaptive response of primary roots to grow away from soil areas with high salt. Although demonstrated in model systems, such as Arabidopsis, this has not been explored in a cereal crop. Here, the honours student will test the halotropic response in a collection of barley cultivars. They will then explore the role of a recently identified component of Arabidopsis salt sensing, the glycoinositolphosphorylceramides (GIPCs; Jiang et al. 2019), and determine whether it impacts halotropism. GIPCs are a class of glycosylated sphinoglipids that are highly enriched in the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane (Mortimer & Scheller, 2020). The honours student will profile barley GIPCs using sphingolipidomics. They will also use CRIPSR/Cas9 gene editing to develop a barley line with an altered GIPC glycan headgroup, for comparison to the Arabidopsis mutant.

The student will develop skills in molecular biology and gene editing techniques, plant growth, lipidomics, experimental design and data analysis, as well as independent research skills.


Dr Megan Shelden

Dr Megan Shelden
Senior Lecturer and Mortlock Fellow within the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. Her research is focussed on improving crop yields in hostile soils (salinity, drought) and enhancing food security.

Associate Professor Jenny Mortimer (Co-supervisor) - School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Tagged in Honours, Honours projects - Megan Shelden, Honours projects - Jenny Mortimer, Honours projects - Plant science