March 2019 - Dr. Lucas Frungillo wins a prestigious BBSRC Discovery Fellowship. The fellowship, worth £300K, provides support for researchers to undertake independent research and gain leadership skills. The fellowship will be hosted by the Spoel Group.
Discovery Fellowships (DF) support the transition of early stage researchers to fully independent research leaders. Around ten prestigious DF fellowships are awarded per year, providing researchers who have an excellent track record in research with an opportunity to develop leadership skills and their own research ideas within a host laboratory. As a Discovery Fellow hosted by Steven Spoel in the School of Biological Sciences, Dr Frungillo will investigate proteins that play a critical role in nutrient uptake and usage in plants.
Understanding and manipulating the mechanisms plants use to take up and use nutrients from the soil could lead to improvements in crop yields and food security. Excessive use of soil fertilisers in an attempt to boost crop yields often leads to economic losses, soil imbalances and groundwater pollution.
Lucas’ previous studies revealed that a gas, known as nitric oxide, is an important signalling molecule that fine-tunes the uptake and use of a key nutrient, called nitrate, in plants. Nitrate is the primary source of nitrogen in soil - an essential component needed for plant growth and metabolism. Nitrate is also linked to the production of nitric oxide. However, the mechanisms that underpin nitric oxide’s role in nitrate uptake are largely unknown.
Dr Frungillo will combine genetic analyses, protein studies and imaging techniques to investigate the proteins that nitric oxide targets to control nutrient uptake and usage. These fundamental insights could lead new ways of boosting nutrient uptake and use, ultimately leading to improvements in plant growth and crop yields.
Dr Frungillo previously held an EMBO fellowship investigating how nitric oxide regulates the plant’s immune system and helps to control their response to disease.