The Lisbon Academy of Sciences has appointed Dr. María del Carmen Risueño Almeida, Professor Ad Honorem belonging to the group Pollen Biotechnology of Crop Plants at CIB, as new member.
This is one of the oldest Portuguese scientific institutions of continuous existence, founded on December 24, 1779 with the mission to promote scientific research and disseminate its results as well as the study of the history of Portugal and its relations with other peoples and to foster the enrichment of thought, literature, language and other sources of national science and culture.
In a ceremony celebrated last November 16th at the Classe de Ciências, prof. Risueño took office as Academic with the speech entitled “Cell reprograming to microspore embryogenesis”.
Her speech discussed the importance of plants in our lives as the basis of the terrestrial ecosystem, their great plasticity that makes them susceptible to being improved, transformed, with important properties in industry and agriculture. High quality research will allow the understanding of the plasticity of development of the plants and their control. Cross-disciplinary approaches bridging molecular biology, bioinformatics and biophysics, synthetic biology and especially cellular biology using modern in situ molecular identification methods in which Prof. Risueño’s group has been pioneer, are the right approach to manage and control the plasticity of plants successfully. Plants throughout their life have the capacity to generate tissues, organs, embryos (without fertilization) and fertile plants, which requires the generation and activity of new stem cells. An interesting use of the plasticity of plants is the reprogramming of the microspore, that originates the pollen grain, an important organism in the life of flowering plants. The microspore after a specific stress is reprogrammed to embryogenesis, producing a haploid embryo and a haploid plant that diploidizes producing double Haploides (DH) in a natural or induced manner. The production of DHs is of great interest in agri-food and forestry. For years, Prof. Risueño’s group has helped to solve several bottlenecks that blocked the process and in particular to clarify decisive mechanisms of control. Also, they have carried out the cellular characterization of key stages of reprogramming to embryogenesis as a response to stress, acquisition of totipotency, patterns of asymmetric cell divisions that determine cell fate, polarization and development pattern of the zygotic-like embryo. Among the regulatory mechanisms that limit the efficiency of the reprogramming process, key factors caused by stress that produce programmed cell death, induction of ROS and NO species, autophagy, and epigenetic reprogramming at the DNA and histone level have been determined. The functional study with their inhibitors promotes the reprogramming of the microspore and early initiation of embryogenesis, improving the production of DHs in crop breeding programs. All together, it constitutes a biotechnological strategy of relevance and interest.