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14 February 2017
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Teaching is concentrated in the faculties and schools, and the departments deal with research, which is also conducted by institutes and chairs, at the same time responsible for knowledge promotion.
We at the Cork Laboratory study the molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of suberised plant tissues, especially phellem and the exodermis. Phellem is the outer layer that protects mature stems and roots. It makes up tree bark and is the equivalent of the cork in cork oak (Quercus suber) or the skin of potatoes (Solanum tuberosum). These two forms of phellem can be isolated from other issues, facilitating their study, and cork in particular develops a great many cell layers with a large amount of suberin. The exodermis is a cell layer located in the periphery of roots lacking notable radial growth; besides providing protection it also works as a selective barrier for exchanges of nutrients with the ground.The accumulation of suberin accumulates in phellem and exodermis walls gives them a protective capacity and speeds up in response to stress (such as drought).
The last few years have seen us focus our efforts on discovering the genes and molecular processes involved in the formation and accumulation of suberin biopolymer in phellem cells.We have been using two phellem models for this: cork and potato skin, identifying the active genes in these tissues and demonstrating their function through genetic modifications in potatoes. Here we modify the activity of genes with a potential role in suberin and analyse the effects produced in potato skins: at cell level, with tissue development, and the impact caused on its protective capacity. As with phellem, we are studying the exodermis for a better understanding of the role of suberin in nutrition using potato roots. We have currently incorporated phellem from Arabidopsis roots (Arabidopsis thaliana) into our studies as it is the plant that has been studied the most and as such offers numerous genetic resources of great use for basic research.
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