Dr Rucha Karnik
- Royal Society University Research Fellow (Institute of Molecular Cell & Systems Biology)
I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry (St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad) and master’s in biotechnology from the Gujarat University in India, earned with a 1st rank in the master’s programme. I then spent over six years in the pharma-biotech industry where I worked on research, marketing and management aspects of various projects including development of recombinant protein-based diagnostic kits, human therapeutics, biosimilars and the agro-biotech business. Drawn to fundamental research in human disease, I left the industry and moved to the UK to pursue my PhD at the University of Leeds, in the Institute of Membrane and Systems Biology. I was awarded fellowships from the prestigious Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme (ORSAS) sponsored by the British government, the Tetley & Lupton Scholarship and the International Research Scholarship from the University of Leeds for my PhD. At Leeds, I investigated membrane traffic of human K+ channels and its implications for health and disease. Following a short term at the research division of Aptuscan, a University of Leeds spin-off company, I found my calling in plant sciences.
For my postdoc, I joined Mike Blatt’s group at the University of Glasgow (2011) where I started working on fundamental plant membrane biology. I have since pursued closely related themes of membrane transport, regulation of membrane traffic and cellular homeostasis, developing a fundamental interest in molecular mechanisms of vesicle traffic and its coordination with transport, which are critical for plant physiology.
As a Royal Society University Research Fellow (2016), the University of Glasgow continues to be my home. To achieve food security in the face of global environment change, it is essential that we improve agricultural crops for efficient growth, nutrient uptake, CO2 and water utilisation and responses to biotic stresses. Therefore, research directed to understanding, predicting, and manipulating the molecular mechanisms of plant growth and responses to the environment is at the forefront of scientific interest. In my lab we study mechanisms of hormone regulated membrane traffic of primary transporters such as the plasma membrane proton pumps and its consequence on plant growth and homeostasis. We are very interested in elucidating the cross-talk between different environmental stimuli that affect the proton pump spatial-regulation for growth, stomatal responses and immunity.
Key words that comprehend Karnik lab research interests: plasma membrane, plant growth, proton transport, ion channels, SNAREs, plant pathogen, immunity, membrane traffic.
- Hormone modulated membrane traffic
Plant cells have a rigid cell wall in addition to the plasma membrane, therefore morphogenesis requires generation of turgor pressure to drive cell expansion. Transport of osmotically active solutes across the plasma membrane and their accumulation within the cell, creates turgor for cell expansion. Plasma membrane H+-ATPases are proton pumps which energise this membrane transport. They generate strong electrochemical gradients by pumping protons out of the cell which powers nutrient uptake, regulates intracellular pH and supports plant growth. Plant hormones, especially auxin, stimulate growth by enhancing proton transport. Decades ago scientists formulated the ‘acid-growth’ hypothesis to explain auxin-induced growth; proposing that increased proton pumping acidifies the cell wall which alters its plasticity to allow expansion. Auxin-induced growth is also associated with a rapid increase in the number of the proton pumps at the plasma membrane, and delivery of the H+-ATPases to the plasma membrane via membrane traffic is vital to driving cell expansion. Yet, to date, very little is known about this traffic and its regulation. We investigate mechanisms of auxin-regulated H+-ATPase traffic and its co-ordination with spatial-regulation of proteins that affect H+-ATPase activation.
- Regulation of Proton Transporter Traffic in Plants for Growth vs Immunity
Not much is understood about the mechanisms underlying pump traffic and the spatial regulation of proton transport modulators. Plant pathogen are known to manipulate proton pump activity to affect stomatal opening to facilitate infection. Role of membrane traffic in such regulation is not well understood. We use techniques in cell biology, proteomics, biochemistry and plant physiology and Arabidopsis thaliana as model plants for our studies. Our research interests include:
1) To investigate the mechanistic aspects of differential regulation of the plant plasma membrane proton pumps during infection.
2) To study how plant immune responses, affect plant growth and nutrition.
If you find plant cell biology fascinating, applications for PhD studies are welcome.
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|Research Staff||Current: Dr Guillermo Baena, 2019
Alumni: Dr Maria Del Mar Marques-Beuno, 2018-2018
|PhD Students||- Konstantinos Athanasiadis, The M.L. MacIntyre Begonia Trust funded Student
- Vincent Ehichioya, Royal Society & University of Glasgow funded Student
- Lingfeng Xia, China Scholarship Council (CSC) & Univeristy of Glasgow funded Student
|UG Students||- Yawei Qi, Honours Project Student 2019- 2020
- Moray Smith, Summer trainee 2019
- Megan Lewis, Honours Project Student 2018-2019
- Harry Copping, Dobbie Smith Awardee BSc Honours in Molecular & Cellular Biology (with Biotechnology 2018)
- Elka Kyurkchieva, MVLS Summer Studentship Awardee 2017 - 2018
- Matthew Habasque, Honours Project Student 2017-2018
|PG Students||- Shuangji Sun, MSc Food Security Project Student 2019
- Jingwen Chi, MSc Biotech Project Student 2019
- Lanxue Bai, MSc Food Security Project Student 2018
- Charles Begley, MSc Biotechnology Project Student 2018
- David Gibbs-Smith, Biomedical Science Designer Project Student 2017
|Technical Staff & Affiliates||Alumni:
- Dr Mary Joseph (affiliate, research) 2019
- Ms Flora Leask (affiliate, outreach) 2019
- Mr Craig Bruce 2017-2018
- Ms Swati Patil (affiliate, technical) 2017
Grants and Awards listed are those received whilst working with the University of Glasgow.
- SNARE endocytosis and secretory vesicle reuse in plant growth-defense trade offs
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
2019 - 2022
- How Do Plants Fight Microbes?- The Defence Song
The Royal Society
2019 - 2019
- Proton Transport Modulators - Spatial Regulation and Effects on Plant Physiology
The Royal Society
2017 - 2021
- Hormone-Regulated Membrane Traffic and Plant Morphogenesis
The Royal Society
2016 - 2021
Level 4: Honours Project Supervisor
MSc. Biotechnology assessor & project supervisor
MSc. Food Security assessor & project supervisor
MSc. Food Security, MSc Biotechnology & Level 4 BIOL5312, BIOL5213, BIOL4110
Plant Biotechnology Platforms and Research Tools Sessions 3-4 (2019)
Level 3 Biomolecular Sciences Bioenergetics Lectures 10-11 (2018)