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Imara Perera

Research Professor

Faculty

Gardner Hall 3200

919.515.6985

Area(s) of Expertise

Inositol phosphate metabolism, plant nutrient and energy sensing, plant stress responses

The overarching goal of my research is to understand the molecular mechanisms governing plant responses to environmental stimuli and stress; in particular the involvement of the phosphoinositide signaling pathway. The membrane associated inositol phospholipids and soluble inositol phosphates provide a means of both intercepting a signal at the membrane and propagating it within the cell. Our current focus is on inositol pyrophosphates, a novel class of signaling molecules. Our hypothesis is that these molecules are involved in energy and nutrient sensing in plants and we are taking a multifaceted approach of molecular genetics, biochemistry, physiology, and systems biology to address this hypothesis as well as understand the global regulation of the pathway.

Another avenue of research in the lab is to characterize seedling responses to microgravity and the spaceflight environment. Our first flight experiment “Plant Signaling in Microgravity” was a comparative study of transcriptional profiles of wild type and transgenic Arabidopsis seedlings (altered in phosphoinositide-mediated signaling), grown on the International Space Station (ISS).   In a second flight experiment “Plant RNA Regulation” we will extend this work to other aspects of gene regulation including changes in small RNAs.  Plants will be an integral part of long distance space travel or habitation. An understanding of how plants respond to the spaceflight environment is an important step towards enabling them to withstand stresses and optimize their growth.

Publications

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Education

Ph.D., Plant Biology, University of Illinois (1991)
M.S., Plant Biology , University of Illinois (1988)
M.S., Biochemistry, University of Colombo (1984)
B.S., Biological Science, University of Colombo (1982)