Wheat Hub Seminar: Visiting researcher A/Prof Jong-Myong Kim


Dr Jong-Myong Kim
Associate professor, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo
CEO, Ac-Planta Inc.


Dr Jong-Myong Kim is an associate professor of the University of Tokyo and the CEO of Ac-Planta Inc, an agri-venture company in Japan. He has studied environmental stress response and chromatin dynamics via histone modification in plants for last 15 years.

After obtaining his PhD from Nara Institute of Bioscience and Technology, Japan in 2001, he started work as a post-doc at Professor Michael Grunstein’s lab in Molecular Biology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.

In 2005 he moved to RIKEN Institute in Japan, he started his research of chromatin dynamics and histone modification responded to abiotic stress in plants. In 2018, he moved to the University of Tokyo, as an associate professor, and also established his own company “Ac-Planta Inc.” certified by RIKEN Institute.

He recently identified a novel survival strategy against drought stress using acetic acid in plants (Nature Plants 2017 Vol.3, 17097), and this discovery attracted a huge media attention, including The Popular Science Magazine, The Natural History Magazine in US, The Science & Vie in France, The Bild der Wissenshafts in Germany, etc.


Measures against drought and heat in plants by using acetic acid

Drought and heat severely impact plant survivability. We demonstrated that plants possess a novel survival strategy; acetate is synthesized through the dynamic metabolic flux conversion from glycolysis in response to drought and confers plant drought tolerance by stimulating the phytohormone jasmonate signalling pathway. Acetic acid promotes de novo jasmonate synthesis.

Furthermore, Arabidopsis histone deacetylase HDA6 directly regulates drought tolerance as an initial ON/OFF switch of the whole acetate-jasmonate network.

Moreover, acetic acid has one more significant role to promote plant drought tolerance. By addition of exogenous acetic acid to plants, acetic acid is converted and incorporated into histones as histone acetylation to prime the genome activation.

A large part of jasmonate signalling pathway genes are highly acetylated and activated in chromatin level. Thus, acetic acid has two-way function to activate jasmonate synthesis and chromatin activity for a novel plant drought gene network” to confer the tolerance. Exogenous application of acetic acid successfully enhanced drought and/or heat tolerances in plants, such as maize, rice, wheat, rapeseed, tomato, lettuce and so on.

Our findings highlight this radically new survival strategy enabling plants to endure water deficit; with potential to serve as a powerful application to maintain crops under drought and heat conditions.

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