Aneta Ivanova

Aneta Ivanova

Aneta Ivanova received her PhD in Plant Physiology from Bulgarian Academy of Science. The positions held by d-r Ivanova are: Institute of Genetic Engineering, Sofia, Bulgaria – Research Officer (1993-1994) , Dept. of Biology, UIA, Antwerp, Belgium – Postdoctoral Fellow (1995-1996), CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, ACT, Australia – Postdoctoral Fellow (1996-2005), UWA, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, Western Australia, Post-Doctoral Fellow (2006-2011), UWA, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology – Research Assistant Professor (since 2001). Her research interests include Molecular biology, Genetics and biochemistry – Arabidopsis thaliana, Mitochondria research, Mitochondrial retrograde signaling, plant stress response, plant hormone biology.

In 2019, she obtained funding for his project under Peter Beron National Science Programme. Here is a brief summary of the project MITORESPLANT.

The role of mitochondria in the desiccation tolerance of the resurrecting plant Haberlea rhodopensis

Water is of crucial importance for the life on our planet. Most plants encounter water stress at certain stages of their life cycles. In order to survive, plants have evolved various mechanisms and adaptation strategies, effective against moderate drought stresses. However most plants cannot tolerate severe drought and persistent desiccation.

Only a small group of vascular plants termed “resurrection plants,” have evolved uniquely to tolerate the loss of more than 90% of their total water content, and recover rapidly after rehydration. About 300 species have been reported to tolerate severe desiccation, distributed predominantly in the southern hemisphere in Africa, America, and Australia. The Balkan endemic Haberlea rhodopensis is one of the few species of resurrection plants, native to Europe. It can survive long periods of desiccation for up to 2 years and quickly resume normal growth within hours of re-watering thus representing an excellent model for studying desiccation tolerance at morphological, physiological and molecular levels, including various “omics” technologies. However, limited studies have been carried out at a molecular and DNA levels. In addition to the nuclear genome, genetic information in plants, is also stored in the mitochondrial and plastid genomes. Although the chloroplast genome of Haberlea rhodopensis has been recently sequenced and assembled, the nuclear and the mitochondrial genomes remain unavailable. This is a significant disadvantage for genetic and detailed transcriptomic studies.

Mitochondria are membrane bound organelles in almost all eukaryotic cells that play essential roles in metabolism, energy production, biosynthesis of a variety of compounds and cell death. They are central to the integration of cellular signalling cues in response to both external and internal stimuli, enabling the plant to balance energy metabolism and defence strategies by influencing nuclear gene expression thus adjusting metabolic and signalling homeostasis.

To our knowledge, the molecular features of mitochondrial activity in resurrecting plants has not yet been studied. We hypothesize that mitochondrial activity, respiration, protein import, bioenergetics and signalling pathways in resurrecting plants should be highly specialised and with unique mechanisms and regulatory features that have evolved allowing for a rapid response to dehydration and for a unique mechanism of preservation during drought stress which allows this plant to balance energy production and recovery. Here, we propose to investigate the function, activity and biogenesis of mitochondria isolated from Habrelea rhodopensis during desiccation and subsequent rehydration. The ability to import proteins essential for establishing an active and functional mitochondrion, the assembly and activity of various oxidative phosphorylation machinery on the inner membrane and the role of the alternative respiratory pathways such as AOX and the Alternative NADH dehydrogenase will be studied. For comparison, the mitochondrial activity of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, (desiccation sensitive) will also be characterised.

In addition, we propose in collaboration with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, The University of Western Australia, to sequence and assemble the mitochondrial genome of Haberlea rhodopenses, a task not achieved yet. This will reveal some insides into the molecular adaptation to drought stress, which awards an evolutionary advantage to this species.