Dr Raphael Ployet
Fast-growing Eucalyptus tree species and hybrids have been identified as one of the best candidates for the development of new woody biomass crops tailored for advanced bio-based products that will form the basis of the future bioeconomy. This development will rely on our ability to breed and engineer novel wood chemistry traits, essentially turning the tree into a biorefinery. Realizing this vision will require much deeper learning and understanding of the genetic control of wood development, a complex biological system with many interacting components and processes.
Over the past few years, my work has been part of a worldwide effort aiming at deciphering wood formation process at the molecular level. I used multidisciplinary systems biology approaches to decipher the underlying molecular mechanisms involved in the control of wood formation in response to environmental constraints (cold, drought and nutritional restrictions), and to point out new key regulators of wood formation.
In the frame of an important industrial collaboration with Sappi Forest Research, I integrated the FMG group to expand the ongoing systems genetics work, and contribute towards application of this knowledge in novel functional genomics and synthetic biology approaches to further elucidate the genetic control of wood development. My objective is to integrate physical transcriptional network interactions with gene co-expression and eQTL systems genetics data to construct a refined systems genetics model of wood formation in Eucalyptus. This approach relies mainly on (i) the identification of regulatory (eQTL) hotspots affecting gene expression of many loci in trans; (ii) the identification of genome-wide binding sites of wood cell wall-related transcription factors using a high-throughput protein-DNA binding assay; (iii) integration of these data with full-rotation age pulping and other phenotypic data, to link for the first time, transcriptional regulation data, to rotation-age traits of relevance to cellulose pulping and biorefinery applications.