Defining the Influence of Environmental Stress on Bioenergy Feedstocks at Single-Cell Resolution
Margot Bezrutczyk1, Danielle Goudeau1, Thai Dao2*, Dusan Velickovic3, Robert Stanley3, Christopher Anderton3, Rex Malmstrom1, and Benjamin Cole1
1DOE Joint Genome Institute; 2Oregon State University; and 3Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Biomass derived from plant feedstocks is a renewable and sustainable energy resource, but these resources are vulnerable to environmental stress such as water and nutrient limitations. Understanding how cells work independently and in concert to regulate plant responses to stress will be crucial to improving their performance. The Early Career Research Project awarded to this group aims to apply several cutting-edge single-cell and spatially resolved transcriptome sequencing approaches to construct a comprehensive single-cell resource for plants and to better understand the complexity behind stress response among diverse cell types. To this end, researchers have profiled thousands of individual sorghum root cells grown under normal and phosphate-limited conditions. Preliminary results have indicated several genes whose expression is potentially altered by stress in a cell type–specific way, with genes in the vasculature being particularly affected. The team is currently integrating this nascent data with additional single-cell data from other species, including maize, Brachypodium and switchgrass. Researchers are also characterizing environmental stress using other advanced profiling methods, including spatial transcriptomics and spatial metabolomics. The team hopes to build a multispecies model of cell type–specific stress responses that can be tested under agriculturally relevant conditions using the EcoPOD technology at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and eventually use to develop new targeted intervention strategies.