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Elsbeth Walker

Date & Location: November 23, 2020, at 4p; Virtual visit

Subject: Long distance signaling of iron status in plants

Host: Hannah Parks & Christina Chiu

About the Speaker

University: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Research Interests: Iron is one of the most important and most problematic of all the micronutrients used by living organisms. Many of the mechanisms involved in plant iron homeostasis are not well understood, and this is a major obstacle to devising approaches for biofortification of staple foods with iron. Biofortification refers to the genetic engineering of staple crops to accumulate additional bioavailable iron in edible parts; it is widely regarded as a sustainable means of improving the iron nutrition of the 2-3 billion people worldwide whose inadequate diet causes iron deficiency anemia.

The Walker group has a strong interest in the processes by which plants move iron and other transition metals within their above ground parts. They previously identified the Yellow Stripe1 Ys1 gene of maize, and showed that this transporter is responsible for primary uptake of iron. The identification of maize Ys1 led them to study the larger Yellow Stripe1-Like (YSL) family. Members of this transporter family are required for normal iron, zinc, and copper loading into both vegetative and reproductive tissues. At present, the Walker group has a strong interest in the whole plant signaling processes that control iron uptake. In addition, they still seek to identify novel genes--especially in grasses--that participate in iron uptake and movement.