July 30, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth
Green shoots of recovery: my return to the Plant Sciences labs
Dr Guilhem Reyt, a research fellow with the Future Food Beacon of Excellence, reflects on returning to the Plant Sciences labs, Sutton Bonington Campus.
I’m in the final stages of my fellowship and during lockdown I was able to focus on paper writing and getting my work published. Juggling childcare with working from home was very challenging and strongly affected my productivity. However, I was amazed by the organisational switch from working from the office to working from home. That went surprisingly well with the great help of online meetings software.
The phased return to the lab did generate frustration due to all the uncertainty generated by this new situation. But everyone in the School of Biosciences worked incredibly hard to allow us to safely return to the laboratory spaces, where I was able to perform all the experiments that were essential to getting a paper published in Current Biology.
My work focuses on plant root development and plant nutrition. I study how roots control the entry of water and mineral nutrients into the vascular system of the plant for transport to the shoot. Of critical importance to these functions are Casparian strips, structures that form tight seals between cells, blocking nutrients and water leaking between.
My paper characterises the role of members of the blue copper proteins family, the Uclacyanins, in Casparian strips formation. This is the first evidence showing the implications of this family in the biosynthesis of lignin, one of the most abundant organic polymers on earth. This study reveals that the molecular machinery required for Casparian strip lignin deposition is highly ordered by forming nano-domains.
I am very grateful for all the hard work
that has allowed us to get back
to the Plant Sciences building
Understanding formation of the Casparian strips is critical because this plant structure controls mineral nutrient and water use efficiencies. This could lead to an enhanced stress tolerance (salinity, flooding, drought, nutrient deficiency) in agricultural crops.
We submitted this manuscript at the beginning of the lockdown. We had a great experience during the submission process – the editor of the journal perfectly understood that potential for disruption from the pandemic. We were able to discuss revisions and work on a plan for moving the paper forward and the editor allowed us to extend the deadline to perform the requested experiments. The reopening of the lab allowed me to perform these experiments, which were critical to improving the paper, and I then resubmitted the manuscript.
I am very grateful for all the hard work that has allowed us to get back into Plant Sciences. I really acknowledge Julietta Marquez, Richard Argent, Zoe Wilson, Simon Langley-Evans, Malcom Bennett, Matthew Dickinson (and many more…) for reconfiguring our research environments and keeping safety requirements.
Now, my plan is to finalise other manuscripts and get them published by the end of the year, which is in important step in securing an independent position/funding.
Please note: all staff must await notification from their line manager before returning to campus, so this process can be managed safely
Find out more about the University’s recovery planning