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IGC scientist receives prestigious EMBO installation grant
Date:12/10/2009

Elena Baena-Gonzlez is to receive one of this year's Installation Grants, awarded by the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO). This is the third consecutive year that a scientist from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia, IGC, is awarded this prize of 50,000 euros annually, for three to five years, and consequent entrance into the prestigious network of some of Europe's best young group leaders.

The award will allow Elena Baena-Gonzlez to pursue her studies into plant responses to stress. Water scarcity, extreme temperatures and salinity can cause stress to a plant and in doing so are the major cause of crop yield losses worldwide Elena's previous work has shown that different stresses trigger largely similar responses in the plant cell, which include halting growth and re-balancing the cell's internal environment, poising the cell for more targeted stress-responses.

Elena discovered that right at the top of this cascade of stress-response reactions is a family of proteins known as SnRK1s (Snf1-related kinase1) in plants, that are also found and highly conserved in yeast and mammals. In the next five years Elena plans to further explore how this energy sensor is regulated, and how it acts to restore the metabolic and energy balance, promoting cell survival and allowing the setting up of longer-term responses for the adaptation of plants to their environment.

As Elena puts it, "At a time when the climate is changing significantly, it is more important than ever to understand how plants respond to stress and how they allocate their energy stores. Ultimately, this knowledge may have an impact on crop yields".

Elena is thrilled that the EMBO installation grant has been awarded to plant research, and, moreover, only one year after arriving at the IGC. Elena says: "The energy sensor in plants, SnRK1, is conserved throughout evolution, all the way to mammals, so this study, although carried out using the plant model study A
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Contact: Silvia Castro
sacastro@igc.gulbenkian.pt
351-214-464-537
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
Source:Eurekalert

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