“Exploring the Plant Mobileome – Investigating the Role of mRNAs as Signaling Molecules Across Graft Junctions”
While I worked on a few projects during my internship, by far the most exciting was the research I did on mRNAs as signaling molecules and how their movement across graft junctions changes over circadian time.
It was only recently discovered that mRNAs can travel along vascular systems to function as mobile signals, so the mechanism is not yet well understood. This project will use transcriptomics to help us better understand this “mobileome” and how it changes over the course of a light cycle.
Seedlings of M82 tomato and Bari-6 eggplant were either self-grafted as controls, or heterografted (tomato rootstock with eggplant scion and vice versa). Once the graft junctions healed, samples of the root and shoot of each combination were harvested- every 4 hours over a 48-hour time-period. The samples were flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, ground with a mortar and pestle to lyse the cells, and RNA was extracted from each sample. The samples will be sent away for library preparation and RNA sequencing, after which we will analyze the transcriptome of each sample to find changes in expression over time. The use of the heterografts will help us easily identify the movement, for example, of mRNA from an eggplant rootstock to a tomato scion or vice versa.
The project is not yet complete, so we don’t have results, but because so little is known about the movement of mRNAs, we will certainly learn something about the way mobileome functions in grafted plants.
The internship with BTI gave me the opportunity to spend my summer focusing on research. I was able to continue projects that I had been working on during the semester, but without the struggle to find time between classes and homework. I was able to build lab skills, learn more about current research in the field, and meet the faculty and grad students who are doing the work. After a year of zoom classes, this opportunity was more important than ever. The research that I did this summer helped to reaffirm that I want to continue along this path into grad school and beyond.