13 April 2015

Prestigious Human Frontiers Science Program grant goes to DynaMo researcher Hussam Nour-Eldin

Young Investigator

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) has awarded one of their highly competitive Young Investigator grants to plant molecular biologist Hussam Nour-Eldin from the University of Copenhagen and two international partners. The grant – worth one million dollars – funds research on hormone transport in plants. The ultimate aim is to discover a new way to improve agricultural crops.

Associate Professor Hussam Nour-Eldin from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen will head the highly innovative project. He explains:

“Plants must sense and respond to their environment to grow and survive. To integrate environmental stimuli including water, sunlight, and nutrients, plants have evolved a fascinating and complex signaling system that utilizes plant hormones. In this project, we will focus on the plant hormone gibberellic acid, which is widely used in agriculture. Importantly, manipulation of gibberellic acid signaling played a critical role in the 'first green revolution' in the 1950s, which gave rise to the modern day high-yielding crops of maize, wheat, and rice.”

Improving agricultural yield
However, it is unknown how gibberellic acids are delivered through plant tissues and where they accumulate during plant growth and development. The research team will elucidate this mystery by combining strong experimental expertise in electrophysiology, X-ray crystallography and developmental genetics using fluorescently labeled gibberellic acids.

The team recently discovered a novel protein that transports gibberellic acid and they hypothesize that this gibberellic acid transport protein plays a major role during plant growth and development. Hussam says:

“Our aim is to do the first detailed investigation of an active gibberellic acid transport mechanism. We want to uncover the physiological role of these transport processes during plant development. A major advance in our understanding of gibberellic acid transport may be used to improve key agricultural traits – for example by designing gibberellic acid analogs with desired properties. Ultimately, we want to develop new strategies for improving crop yield.”

Human Frontier Science Program
Hussam Nour-Eldin is Principal Investigator for the team who won the prestigious HFSP grant. His two partners are Eilon Shani from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Toshimitsu Kawate from Cornell University in the USA. The title of their project is ‘Hormone delivery in plants: mechanisms and physiological roles of gibberellic acid transporters’ and the duration is three years.

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) is an international program of research support, funding frontier research on the complex mechanisms of living organisms. Research is funded at all levels of biological complexity from biomolecules to the interactions between organisms. The research grants are for international, preferably intercontinental, teams of two to four scientists who wish to combine their expertise in innovative approaches to questions that could not be answered by individual laboratories.

Applicants endure a rigorous, yearlong selection procedure during a global competition that result in only 10 Young Investigator teams receiving approval, from a field of 180 proposals.

Read more about the HFSP here.