Sarah Jensen

Sarah Jensen
Year: 2013
School: Grinnell College

Identifying salicylic acid-binding proteins involved in plant disease resistance

Salicylic acid (SA) is a phenolic plant hormone found in a wide range of species and involved in a variety of plant processes, including plant resistance against pathogen attack. Because plants do not have specialized immune cells, each cell individually recognizes and responds to pathogens through two main defense systems: pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP)-triggered immunity (PTI) and effector-triggered immunity (ETI). PTI and ETI responses that occur at the local infected tissues lead to systemic acquired resistance (SAR) in distal tissue, which confers longer-term resistance against a broad spectrum of pathogens. SA is necessary for both PTI and ETI responses and acts as a signal for SAR responses as well. However, the mechanism through which SA mediates an immune response is not entirely understood. Identifying SA targets will help elucidate SA-mediated signaling mechanisms associated with plant disease resistance and other cellular processes. To this end, a list of candidate salicylic acid-binding proteins (SABPs) was generated with preliminary photoaffinity labeling assays. The SA-binding activity of these candidate SABPs must be further evaluated to determine the validity of each. Over the summer, a subset of candidate SABP genes were cloned into a protein expression vector pET-28a from which the proteins of interest were expressed and purified for further analysis.

My Experience

Spending the summer at Boyce Thompson Institute gave me an opportunity to learn more about plant science and current plant pathology research and taught me important biochemistry lab techniques such as cloning and protein purification. The research team was friendly and supportive, and my mentor was very welcoming and patient. She taught me each of the techniques that I needed for my project this summer, and then let me make my own schedule which gave me a lot of flexibility and allowed me to participate in activities outside of the research, such as bioinformatics seminars that were offered at BTI each week. Having the opportunity to do research at BTI this summer also gave me a better idea of what it would be like to be a graduate student.