Yalmarie Numan Vazquez

“Hormonal modulation of root system architecture in wild tomatoes under salt stress”

Project Summary:

The increasing human population and reduction in land available for cultivation are threats to agricultural sustainability. This causes environmental stress like soil salinity which alters plant architecture and growth rate, affecting overall plant productivity. Thus, it is imperative to develop more salt-tolerant plants for sustainable agriculture. Since roots are at the interface of saline soil, many root-related architectural traits have been the target of breeding programs for improving crop tolerance and yield. Solanum pimpinellifolium (wild tomato) is the closest relative to Solanum lycopersicum (cultivated tomato) and is an important source for genetic improvement since it goes through adaptation to tolerate any abiotic stress. Previously, Julkowska et al. visually classified four distinct root topologies in terms of the salt stress response by screening root system architecture of 230 S. pimpinellifolium accessions. However, it still remains to be determined 1) how hormonal signaling is involved in creating distinct root topologies, and 2) what is the biological significance of these root topologies in the overall salt stress response. In our experiment, we compared the effect of two classical plant hormones, abscisic acid and ethylene, on the root system architecture of two wild tomato accessions and one cultivated tomato accession. For studying root system architecture, the seedlings are germinated in a control plate for five days and then transferred into treatment plates. Then, the plates start to be scanned for five consecutive days. The images obtained are analyzed through the plugin SmartRoot in the program ImageJ for root tracing, followed by root architectural traits analysis in R.

My Experience:

This experience made me grow both professionally and personally. Coming from such a small island like Puerto Rico and being so far away from home for a whole summer was a real challenge but it was definitely worth it. I made unforgettable friends and memories that forever will live with me. Being an intern at Boyce Thompson Institute certainly changed my vision of what plant biology research is like. It allowed me to enhance my confidence in a research setting, sharpen my critical thinking, learn about new research tools, and develop new skills that will be of high value for my future. In addition to this, I had the opportunity to meet and work with amazing people in my research lab that helped me identify my research interests and define my career goals. This internship provided me with the support and mentorship necessary to approach graduate school applications on the right foot. Overall, I learned valuable lessons and had a fruitful experience that will carry with me.