School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th



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Evaluation of oxidative stress markers in cryotolerant and cryosensitive plant species

The aim is to study the factors that determine the ability of various plants to survive cryogenic storage, with a focus on recalcitrant and endangered species of relevance in post-mining rehabilitation. Oxidative stress markers are detectable in cryopreserved cells from many species and it has been demonstrated that tissues with high catalase and low superoxide dismutase activity show increased tolerance to cryostorage. Elevated levels of antioxidant activity have also been correlated with a reduction in the production of hydroxyl radicals. Low temperature stress can also stimulate ethylene biosynthesis, a response that has been correlated with senescence and plant stress, which can also be utilised as an indicator of post-cryogenic storage membrane damage. This project will determine the significance of stress markers for cryosensitive and cryotolerant Australian plant native species during cryogenic storage.

Supervisors: Dr. Eric Bunn (phone: 9480 3647, email eric.bunn@bgpa.wa.gov.au), Assoc. Prof. Ricardo L. Mancera


  1. Evaluation of plant tissue responses to a range of cryogenic solutions

The aim is to study the factors that determine the ability of various plants to survive cryogenic storage, with a focus on recalcitrant and endangered species of relevance in post-mining rehabilitation.Relatively little is known about how cryogenic solutions promote survival after liquid nitrogen storage and their specific mode of action. The most commonly used cryoprotectant, the plant vitrification solution 2 (PVS2), has been successfully applied to many different Australian species. While other solutions are successful on a number of plants, only PVS2 yields high survival following liquid nitrogen immersion. The exact reason for this lack of survival is currently unknown, despite the fact that the composition of the different solutions is relatively similar. All these solutions have glycerol, ethylene glycol, sucrose and DMSO as their core components, which are believed to aid cell membrane stabilisation during cooling through interactions with membrane structures, promoting cell desiccation by increasing the osmotic potential extracellularly, and replacing intracellular water so that cellular volume is not substantially altered during desiccation. This project will investigate the changes that occur in the shoot tips of cryosensitive and cryotolerant Australian plant native species upon cooling with liquid nitrogen in the presence of different cryogenic solutions.

Supervisors: Dr. Eric Bunn (phone: 9480 3647, email eric.bunn@bgpa.wa.gov.au), Assoc. Prof. Ricardo L. Mancera


  1. Smoke and sex using the smoke chemical as a propagation tool?

The recent discovery by UWA and Kings Park scientists of the active smoke chemical (karrikinolide) is a triumph of Australian science. Karrikins are a new class of naturally-occurring plant growth-promoting compounds and research has now established that they can stimulate plant tissues grown in vitro. Recent research has found in vitro cultured somatic embryos derived from Baloskion tetraphyllum (Restionaceae) were stimulated to grow and develop more rapidly when exposed to karrikinolide. However, little else is known about the effects of Karrikins, their active concentration or other responsive species or tissues. This project aims to discover and document the effects of karrikinolide on embryogenic callus derived from Lepidosperma spp.

Supervisors: Dr. Eric Bunn (phone: 9480 3647, email eric.bunn@bgpa.wa.gov.au) Dr. Shane Turner (phone: 9480 3639, email: shane.turner@bgpa.wa.gov.au)

  1. Saving the sedgesresearching mass propagation of Australian native sedges.

An honours project will be offered on developing tissue culture-based mass propagation techniques for the dryland Cyperaceae (sedges) species Mesomalaena pseudostygia, Mesomalaena tetragona and Schoenus grandiflorus. This project will investigate methods of mass-producing plants through specialised plant tissue culture techniques, concentrating on the challenging area of seed embryo extraction and culture.

Supervisor: Dr. Eric Bunn (phone: 9480 3647, email eric.bunn@bgpa.wa.gov.au)


  1. Propagation and storage biology of the critically endangered species Androcalva perlaria

(Sterculiaceae).

Androcalva perlaria (previously Commersonia sp Mt Groper) is poorly studied species known to occur from less than 5 sites along the South coast of Western Australia. Little is currently known about its propagation biology and storage requirements, aspects which are critical to securing its long term future. This project will therefore investigate key features of the seed biology of this species and will also assess the applicability of plant tissue culture for its mass propagation. In addition, the response of seeds and somatic tissues (shoot cultures and shoot tips) to various forms of long-term storage such as maintenance at 10 °C, 5

°C, -18 °C and -196 °C (cryostorage) will also be assessed.

Supervisor: Dr. Shane Turner (phone: 9480 3639, email: shane.turner@bgpa.wa.gov.au)

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