Plant Molecular Genetics Lab

Research field: 
Developing next-generation multi-targeted CRISPR genetic toolboxes to uncover hidden traits: The Shani lab develops next-generation genetics tools that enhance basic plant research and crop resilience. The need to accelerate crop breeding programs has never been greater, as the world population is exponentially increasing, the climate is changing, and resources are limited. Breeding relies on genetic variation. However, it is impossible to alter many phenotypes by introducing genetic variation in a single gene due to large gene families with high functional redundancy. For example, in tomato and rice, ~80% of coding genes belong to multi-gene families. Therefore, in many cases, mutating multiple gene family members is required to uncover “hidden” traits that are important for plant resilience and food security. Currently, there is no approach or technology that can dig into the hidden genetic redundancy at a genome-scale level (unbiased forward genetics) and reveal masked agricultural traits. To address these challenges, we developed the Multi-Knock technology – the first genome-scale multi-targeted CRISPR libraries in plants. Multi-Knock can be applied to most crops and all breeding traits. Therefore, we expect the new toolbox we develop here to transform how scientists and breeders perform genetics.

Transport mechanisms of plant hormones: We utile the next-generation genetics CRISPR libraries to reveal and characterize hormone transport mechanisms. Plant growth, development, and response to the environment are mediated by a group of small signaling molecules named hormones. Plants regulate hormone response pathways at multiple levels, including biosynthesis, metabolism, perception, and signaling. In addition, plants exhibit the unique ability to control hormone distribution spatially. In recent years, multiple transporters have been identified for most plant hormones. Our lab uses novel genetic screens to identify and characterize transporters for the abscisic acid, auxin, cytokinin, and gibberellin hormones. We study how subcellular, cell-to-cell, and long-distance hormone movement and local hormone sinks trigger or prevent hormone-mediated responses.

Specific Research interests/topics:
• Developing next-generation genetic tools such as multi-targeted CRISPR libraries
• Transport mechanisms of hormones and nutrients in plants
• The lab focuses on several plants, including Arabidopsis, rice and tomato.

Research methods: 
Plant genetics, plant biotechnology, genome editing, genome-scale CRISPR libraries, plant physiology, response to drought and salt, fluorescent microscopy.

Main projects in the lab include:
1. Genome editing at large scales
2. Multi-targeted CRISPR libraries
2. ABA localization and activity
3. Gibberellin localization and activity

Potential industries:
1. Breeding companies
2. Agtech

Website: https://www.shanilab.sites.tau…

Contact Details:
School of Plant Science and Food Security
Tel Aviv University


Phone: 972-3-640-9125

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