PeerJ Award Winners at RAFV 2023

by | Nov 2, 2023 | Award Winner Interviews, Contributors, Uncategorized

The XXXIV Argentinian Meeting of Plant Physiology (RAFV 2023) was held in Rosario, Argentina between 24th – 27th September 2023. The meeting aims to promote the interaction and collaboration of national and international scientists who study different aspects of plant physiology to present the latest advances, discuss ideas, hypotheses and experiments. At the same time, the meeting promotes the early development of scientific careers and seeks to generate tools for teaching plant biology.

PeerJ sponsored two awards at RAFV 2023, and we recently caught up with the winners to discuss their research.


Evelyn Becerra Agudelo PhD candidate at Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I am a CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, from Argentine) fellow at the IAL (Instituto de Agrobiotecnología del Litoral, Argentina)). I am a biotechnologist and environmental engineer. To pursue my PhD, I decided to migrate from Colombia to Argentina. I have focused on studying how plants interact with the environment, and this interest has allowed me to work in various fields.
At present, I have focused on studying OXR proteins, as they may be a key to describing the mechanism of how plants have adapted to stress.

Can you briefly explain the research you presented at RAFV 2023?

The title of my presentation was OsOXR-Q12 protein is involved in cellular defense homeostasis and contributes to salt stress tolerance in Oryza sativa. The work was carried out in rice plants that overexpressed the OsOXR-Q12 protein, which we knew previously had desirable growth, production, and salt stress tolerance characteristics. The study aimed to describe, from an anatomical, physiological, and molecular perspective, the response observed in the OsOXR-Q12 plants compared to the Kitaake (wild type). The results complemented and validated previous studies by the group and suggested a new role for OXR proteins in cellular homeostasis by controlling ROS levels. Additionally, a possible connection with brassinosteroid regulation is proposed.

What are your next steps?

There are several steps to follow, many experiments to do, and multiple answers to discover and analyze; however, detailing them specifically is quite challenging. Much of the research in our group is based on finding clues to continue exploring the role of OXR in plants. In the future, I hope to delve deeper into the role of OXR in abiotic stress and its connection with phytohormones.


Diego J. Renzi PhD candidate at Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

My name is Diego J. Renzi and I live in Rosario, Argentina. I am currently doing a PhD from Facultad de Ciencias Bioquímicas y Farmacéuticas de la Universidad Nacional de Rosario at Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Rosario (IBR).

What first interested you in this field of research?

I graduated as a biotechnologist in 2020 and decided to do further research on plants for three reasons mainly. First, my family has always dedicated themselves to the growing of crops so I grew up seeing my grandparents and parents working in the fields. Therefore, my curiosity about plants started from an early age. Second, I have always felt fascinated by the great adaptability plants have. In other words, they have the capacity to survive in different scenarios without being able to move; and this has definitely captivated me. Last but not least, agriculture is the main area of productivity in my country and I would like my investigation to be relevant for Argentinians.

Can you briefly explain the research you presented at RAFV 2023?

Currently, I am working with a group of highly motivated professionals who love for plants and science is immeasurable. At the RAFV 2023 I presented a poster, “Silencing of a CCT domain containing protein in tomato plants leads to increased abiotic stress tolerance”, in which topics such as tolerance to different abiotic stresses in tomato were addressed. In order to deal with such topics, my colleagues and I analysed a family of transcription factors that encode proteins with a CCT domain. We focused on the structure and expression in different tissues and conditions of genes that only have that domain (called CMF genes). After gathering the information we needed, we proceeded to choose the CMF genes of tomato that express themselves the most in the different plant stages and we analysed their function against the stresses in which their expression was affected. For this, we transformed tomato plants with the objective to obtain plants with decreased expression levels in the selected CMF genes.

In our poster, we presented the results of the plants with decreased expression levels of one selected CCT gene and we observed an increase in tolerance to drought and oxidative stress. Furthermore, we analysed the expression of different markers of tolerance to abiotic stress and, so far, we have found an increase in the expression of some of them in transgenic plants.

How will you continue to build on this research?

In the future, we will try to get a better and bigger understanding about the pathways that generate this stress tolerance phenotype in transgenic plants. Besides, we look forward to gaining a deeper knowledge about the function of this particular CMF gene as well as other selected genes by the use of genome editing technology.
Although there is much yet to be studied and discovered, the scope is promising and the future looks bright. Therefore, we are in high spirits, working hard on a project that we hope will contribute with science and the country.

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