Faculty Advisor: Michael Sussman


My work focuses on the identification and quantitation of changes in the phosphorylation status of proteins in the plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, following treatment with the phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA). ABA is an endogenous phytohormone produced in response to water deficiency, which signals the plant to elicit increased capabilities for water retention, allowing for survival during drought conditions. While there are currently large gaps in the understanding of the molecular signaling mechanism of ABA, the hormone is thought to largely signal through reversible protein phosphorylation events to induce water retention.  However, both the identity of the affected downstream target proteins, and the level of phosphorylation change, are not known. This research aims to identify and accurately quantify the changes in phosphorylation levels in Arabidopsis following treatment with ABA using isotope-assisted mass spectrometry (MS) methods. This research proposal has the long term goal of generating fundamental knowledge on the biochemical mechanism involved in the plant cell’s ABA induced drought response. This knowledge may potentially allow for the future development of crop populations that have enhanced resistance to water shortages. Development of such drought resistance plants are vital for increasing crop yields, as well as for the stabilization of crop production for food and fuel supplies worldwide.