After graduating in Biology, I've got my PhD (January 1993, Universitat de València) working on how plants regulate their growth in response to environmental light conditions. After three consequtive postdocs working on plant transcription factors (John Innes Center, Norwich, UK - Cathie Martin’s group; 1993 - 1995), on phytochrome signaling in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Plant Gene Expression Center, UC-Berkeley, USA - Peter Quail’s team; 1996 - 2000) and on photoperiod-regulated potato tuberization (Instituto de Biología Molecular de Barcelona, CSIC, Barcelona, Spain - Salomé Prat laboratory; 2000 - 2001), I’ve got a permanent position as an ICREA Research Professor in November 2001 and established my own research group. Currently, my group is interestd in understanding how plants see and respond to the proximity of other plants.
From the different light-regulated plant development responses, my laboratory works to understand how plants respond to vegetation proximity, a type of plant-plant communication. In Arabidopsis thaliana, a sun-loving plant that avoids vegetation proximity and shade, perception of neighboring vegetation results in the activation of a set of responses known as the shade avoidance syndrome (SAS). The most obvious SAS response is the induction of the elongation of seedlings. After identifying several SAS regulatory components, we established that they are organized in complex transcriptional regulatory networks in which the levels of several components are rapidly altered after plant proximity perception. This networks are formed by a broad range of transcription factors and cofactors, as well as specific components of the nuclear pore complex.
We have expanded our research to other plant species closely related to A. thaliana that tolerate (instead of avoid) plant shade, as is the case of Cardamine hirsuta, a species susceptible to be used in genetic approaches. Our comparative genetic analyses between both kind of species has helped us to unravel how nature implements adaptation to plant shade and high planting density. Ultimately, our work will help to better understad how plants communicate to each other, a knowledege that will contribute to make agricultural systems more complex, and hence to transition towards a more sustainable agriculture.
– Ortiz-Alcaide M, Llamas E, Gómez-Cadenas A, Nagatani A, Martinez-Garcia JF© & Rodriguez-Concepción M© 2019, ‘Chloroplasts modulate elongation responses to canopy shade by retrograde pathways involving HY5 and ABA‘. Plant Cell 31, 384–398.
– Molina-Contreras MJ*, Paulisic S*, Then C*, Moreno-Romero J, Pastor-Andreu P, Morelli L., Roig-Villanova I, Jenkins H, Hallab A, Gan X, Gómez-Cadenas A, Tsiantis M, Rodríguez-Concepción M & Martínez-García JF© 2019, ‘Photoreceptor activity contributes to contrasting response to shade in Cardamine and Arabidopsis seedlings‘. Plant Cell 31, 2649-2663.
Selected research activities
– Invited lectures and seminars. “Being tolerant in shaded times: what weeds can teach us”. Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Invited by Ian Wright (25 October); “Divergent plant responses to vegetation proximity: the contribution of photoreceptors”. University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Invited by Ronald Pierik (24 June); “How to be tolerant in shaded times: lessons from weeds”. UMR, CIRAD, Montpellier. Invited by Tanguy Lafarge (23 May) and “How to be tolerant in shaded times: lessons from weeds”. Programa Seminario Interdepartamental, Máster “Biotecnología” y Máster “Producción, protección y mejora vegetal”, Universidad de Córdoba. Invited by Prof. Enriqueta Moyano (5 April).
– Member of the Organizing Committee of the International Symposium on Plant Photobiology 2019 (ISPP 2019). 3-8 June 2019, Barcelona (Spain). https://www.ispphotobiology2019.com.
– Four-month sabbatical stay in the Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) in the laboratory of Pof. Ian Wright. During this time I was appointed the homorary academic title of Visiting Professor with MAcquarie University.
– Fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities for the four-month sabbatical stay at the Macqarie University (September to December).