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Soraya Pelaz

Soraya Pelaz

Centre de Recerca en Agrigenòmica

Life & Medical Sciences

Born in Bilbao, started Biology studies in the Basque Country University but moved to Madrid to follow the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry specialty. She obtained her BSc at Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) in 1989. For her PhD studies she joined Dr. Morata's laboratory at the CBM where she performed research on Drosophila Developmental Genetics with a Basque Predoctoral fellowship and got the PhD in 1993 at UAM. For her postdoctoral research she moved from flies to flowers by joining Dr. Yanofsky's laboratory at the University of California at San Diego. There she performed Developmental Biology on Arabidopsis with fellowships from the Spanish MEC and from the HFSPO. In 2001 she got a "Ramón y Cajal" contract at INIA in Madrid to establish her own line of research in Flower Development. In 2003 she joined ICREA and moved to Barcelona. Along the years she has also performed stays at UNAM, Mexico; WUR, Netherlands; Max Planck, Germany and NYU and NYBG, USA.

Research interests

The connection among crop production, climate change, and demographic growth is progressively uncovering a profound impact in the food security throughout the world. Because plants are sessile organisms they maximize their chances to survive adversities by reprogramming their development for adaptation to environmental changes. Under this scenario, integrative approaches to understand the specific role of essential genetic regulatory networks (GRNs) in plants are urgently needed. Among the emerging regulatory elements inside different GRNs, the RAV genes configure a potential hub to modulate plant development in response to adverse environmental conditions, which are major limiting factors for plant survival, adaptation, and crop production. Hence, fully understanding the involvement of RAV genes in essential GRNs and their association with different biological plant processes in broad phylogenetic approach becomes crucial.

Our results implicate RAV genes as critical regulators of flowering time and in responses to abiotic stresses in Arabidopsis and rice, showing functional conservation. In addition, RAV genes of many species, including from non-flowering plants, were capable to regulate flowering when introduced into Arabidopsis. Besides, we have shown that Arabidopsis rav mutants are resilient to abiotic stresses, and for example, they show salt tolerance and constitutive drought escape response, a mechanism that promotes early flowering, and, thus the plant maximizes the chances to set seeds “escaping” from a potentially lethal drought condition. Therefore, we perform a comprehensive functional study of RAV genes along the green tree of life. We analyze their GRNs in abiotic stress responses in Arabidopsis, and in response to climate adaptation in rice. Finally, we aim to decipher RAV gene evolution and function acquisition unravelling their roles from non-flowering plants, mosses and ferns, to flowering plants, Arabidopsis and rice.

Selected publications

– Osnato M, Cereijo U, Sala J, Matias-Hernandez L, Aguilar-Jaramillo AE, Rodriguez-Goberna MR, Riechmann J, Rodriguez-Concepcion M & Pelaz S 2021, ‘The floral repressors TEMPRANILLO1 and 2 modulate salt tolerance by regulating hormonal components and photo-protection in Arabidopsis‘, Plant Journal, 105, 7-21.

– Osnato M, Lacchini E, Pilatone A, Dreni L, Grioni A, Chiara M, Horner D, Pelaz S & Kater MM 2021, “Transcriptome analysis reveals rice OsMADS13 as an important repressor of the carpel development pathway in ovules“. Journal of Experimental Botany, 72, 398-414.

– Suarez-Baron H, Alzate, JF, Gonzalez F, Pelaz S, Ambrose BA & Pabon-Mora N 2021, ‘Gene expression underlying floral epidermal specialization in Aristolochia fimbriata (Aristolochiaceae)’, Annals of Botany, 127, 749 – 764.

Selected research activities

Managerial Activities

* Head of the Molecular Genetics Department at CRAG

* Member of the International Doctoral Thesis committee (2016-2021). University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia. Obtained a Summa cum laude

* Faculty Opponent for the PhD dissertation. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Funded Projects

* Unmasking the mechanism of RAV genes in FLOral Repression in Abiotic stress. MICIU

Guarantor Researcher of Centers of Excellence Severo Ochoa awarded to CRAG.

Arabidopsis Developmental Genomics. SGR. AGAUR.

Master Thesis

* Carlos González. “Evolutionary, molecular and functional characterization of Arabidopsis thaliana RAV3 and RAV3-like genes”. Master on Plant Biology, Genomics and Biotechnology. UAB.

Editorial Board

* Associated Editor of Physiologia Plantarum.

* Editor of Plants. Academic Editor of Peer J. and Review Editor of Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics.

Outreach Activities

* Media attention of our Osnato et al., 2021 article: l’Efecte Papallona de Catalunya Informació, and Video-interview for ANTAMA foundation.

* “Mutant Plants” workshop for school children in collaboration with CRECIM.

ICREA Memoir 2021