Algoma U Biochemist Published in Prestigious PNAS Journal

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Algoma University is pleased to announce that biologist Dr. Isabel Molina’s collaborative research with The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Oklahoma, titled “A class II KNOX gene, KNOX4, controls see physical dormancy”, has been published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

“Dr. Molina is doing very innovative research that will have an impact not just on our basic understanding of plant biochemistry, but on industries ranging from agriculture and forestry to biomaterials and biofuels,” remarked Dr. Craig Chamberlin, President and Vice Chancellor of Algoma University. “We are pleased to see her work recognized by PNAS, and are excited about this new discovery and the impact it will have in our farming community.”

Molina is one of 10 other scientists who collaborated on this research project with the Noble Foundation. Collaborators and researchers include Maofeng Chai, Chuanen Zhou, Chunxiang Fu, Jin Nakashima, Guifen Li, Wenzheng Zhang, Jongjin Park, Yuhong Tang, Quinzhen Jiang, and Zeng-Yu Wang. Together, the team of researchers examined Medicago truncatula, a model legume plant, due to the seed’s physical dormancy, or hardseedness. They noted that a specific gene, called KNOX4, controls the physical dormancy of plants. This gene controls the development of a waterproof film, the cuticle, which surrounds the seed and is crucial to maintain physical dormancy.

“Plants have developed a major innovation, the seed, which contains an embryo surrounded by protective seed coat layers. Many seeds remain dormant, preventing premature germination. This ensures that germination takes place only under optimal conditions, where the vulnerable newly-emerged plant has more chances of survival,” begins Dr. Molina. “Proper timing of seed germination is critical for the survival of plants in the wild and is also important to ensure uniform growth when used in commercial farming. Our discovery may help to improve seed quality for farmers and aid in the rapid domestication of wild species into crops.”

From Argentina, Molina has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and a Research Chair in Natural Products Biochemistry at Algoma U since 2011. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the National University of La Plata (UNLP) and her Ph.D in Plant Biology from Michigan State University (MSU). Her doctoral research was fully funded by a prestigious Fulbright fellowship and earned the Bessey Award for research excellence. Molina has generated over one million dollars in external funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF).