Summary: The research of my group is focused on the elucidation of biological functions of new genes and proteins involved in cell division control, cell-cell communications and flower and grain development in plants. We isolate genetic mutants of plants defective in vegetative growth and seed development. We use genetic and genomic approaches to map mutated genes on specific locations of chromosomes and clone them for further functional characterization at the molecular level. We employ biochemical and molecular biology techniques to purify their protein products and measure their enzyme activities.

Minimum classes: Organic Chemistry, Genetics and Introductory Biochemistry

Projects: The goal of the summer project is to understand how beta-glucan, a major polysaccharide of cereal grains, is synthesized and accumulated in barley. Beta-glucan is a dietary fiber found in grains of cereal crops such as oats and barley. This polysaccharide is not present in corn, wheat, rice, potato and other common food sources. Supplementation of beta-glucan in human diets can effectively reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels and is highly recommended for patients with heart and diabetic conditions. We have isolated a barley mutant that accumulates a very high level of beta-glucan in grain. We will conduct biochemical measurements and analyses of enzymes and sugar intermediates involved in the beta-glucan biosynthetic pathway in barley. We will measure enzyme activities and the contents of various sugar intermediates in the barley mutant in comparison with those in the wildtype barley plants. Common biochemistry techniques and modern molecular biology approaches including protein purification, protein gel analysis, enzyme activity measurements, liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry (LC/MS) and proteomic analyses will be used in this project. The anticipated results from this study will advance our understanding of beta-glucan biosynthesis and accumulation in plants and will help barley breeders in development of new food barley cultivars with improved beta glucan contents in grain. New barley cultivars with elevated beta-glucan contents will provide a more healthy food source for human consumption and will also open new cereal grain markets across the world.

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