Emmanuel Gonzalez
Year: 2018
Faculty Advisor: Jim Giovannoni

“Analysis of Cold Stress Responses in Solanum lycopersicoides Introgression Lines”

Project Summary:

While the world population is rapidly growing, arable acreage is shrinking causing strain on agriculture. Severe shifts in weather patterns associated with climate change further aggravate this strain. These conditions collectively threaten crop yield and food security across the globe. The demand for traits such as cold tolerance has increased because plants that express these traits would be better able to tolerate harsh conditions and meet food supply demands. These plants could also broaden the seed-to-harvest window thereby allowing farmers more flexibility, productivity and profitability.

Solanum lycopersicoides, a nightshade tomato relative, grows in dry, cold alpine regions of Peru and Chile, making it of interest for both cold and drought tolerance studies. The development of introgression lines (ILs) containing introduced chromosomal segments of S. lycopersicoides into the genetic background of the cultivated tomato S. lycopersicum could possess cold tolerance. By quantifying stress response in ILs, lines of interest can be identified for further investigation of cold tolerance mechanisms and as a direct tomato breeding resource.

I analyzed the stress responses of an IL population by analyzing their malondialdehyde (MDA), proline, chlorophyll, and brix contents. Qualitative data was additionally gathered by photographing plants as part of a survival assay.  Several ILs were determined to be potential candidates for cold tolerance where multiple assays supported this conclusion. Future work could focus on fine mapping quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that could be conferring cold tolerance.

My Experience:

My experience here at BTI has been truly invaluable. I gained hands-on experience with research techniques, analytical equipment, and experimental design. The weekly seminars, many talks with mentors/lab members, and reading primary research broadened my knowledge in various plant science topics.

My mentor and I worked closely to design and modify my summer project. He encouraged me to take the lead and conduct most parts of project myself, but he was always available if anything was unclear. This approach allowed me to analyze each protocol critically and become familiar with my project’s experimental methods. I developed a confidence in my ability to conduct meaningful research and strengthened my interest in attending graduate school. I feel ready, more than ever before, to pursue a fruitful career in plant science.