Future scenarios of agriculture production considering the consequences of climate change, with more intense drought episodes, need biotechnological solutions to improve drought tolerance in crops. Grasses using C4 photosynthetic pathway play a central role in worldwide agriculture, essential to produce food and feed as well as biomass for bioenergy. Apocarotenoids, naturally occurring plant compounds derived from oxidative cleavage of carotenoids, hold great potential to be assessed aiming crop protection due to their reported protective effects on C3 plants under different stress conditions as water deficit. Our working hypothesis is that apocarotenoids have a protective effect on C4 grasses and genetic engineering approaches aiming accumulation of these compounds can create drought-tolerant genotypes. This research project aims to investigate the contribution of ²-carotene-derived apocarotenoid to water deficit tolerance in C4 grasses using the model species Setaria viridis. Particularly, we aim to assess how apocarotenoid pre-treatment affects Setaria exposed to water stress and engineer apocarotenoid biosynthesis to boosting stress tolerance in the species. Strategies for the overexpression of previously characterised heterologous genes and the targeted transcriptional activation of the Setaria endogenous genes through biotechnological tools based on CRISPR-Cas will be utilised. A better understanding of the apocarotenoid roles in plants may support the advance of current knowledge about the mechanisms of abiotic stress tolerance in C4 grasses as well as establish new strategies to develop climate-resilient crops.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: