Science Focus Area: Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Principal Investigator and Laboratory Research Manager: Qun Liu1
- Co-Investigators: Meng Xie1, Tim Paape2, Crysten E. Blaby-Haas3, Doreen Ware4, Samuel M. D. Seaver5
- Participating Institutions: 1Brookhaven National Laboratory, 2U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at Children’s Nutrition Research Center, 3Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 4U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 5Argonne National Laboratory
- Project Website: https://www.bnl.gov/biology/plant-sciences/
SummaryThe Quantitative Plant Science Initiative (QPSI) is a mission-driven, interdisciplinary, team-based SFA that addresses the challenge of producing economically and environmentally sustainable bioenergy crops that can grow in marginal soils and environments. The QPSI SFA advances understanding of nutrient handling and stress responses in bioenergy crops and contributes to a larger U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-supported collection of complementary and distinct research, tackling various aspects of bioenergy development.
QPSI advances identification and understanding of the foundational genome-based principles that underpin bioenergy plants as complex biological systems. By expanding sequence-to-function understanding, QPSI aims to improve the utility of DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program’s flagship plant genomes as the fundamental inputs upon which biosystem redesign depends.
QPSI uses genome-wide omics data combined with gene, protein, and molecular-level experimentation and computation. To support the development of bioenergy crops with improved stress resilience, the current 3-year period’s goal is to develop a genome-based, molecular-level, and system-level understanding for adaptation to micronutrient stress. Focusing on the bioenergy crops poplar and sorghum, researchers are performing large-scale transcriptomics time-course experiments to understand how these plants respond to different environmental stresses.
Team members are also employing an interdisciplinary approach to provide an experimentally grounded sequence-specific understanding of molecular-level functions for major players involved in plant homeostasis. Comparative genomics provides an in silico platform to generate protein function hypotheses. Hypotheses are tested with reverse genetics in model organisms and biochemical assays of protein family members. Structure-function studies supply mechanistic insight into how sequence space translates into molecular function. While working with micronutrient stresses in the current phase, subsequent opportunities will incorporate other real-world stress conditions. QPSI research serves as a touchstone for accurate genome-based computational propagation across sequenced genomes and forms the foundation for robust predictive modeling of plant productivity in diverse environments.