Yufeng Jiang adds international experience to her CV

Yufeng Jiang has joined the INRA Versailles-Grignon centre to continue her PhD research on nitrogen use in plants.

Yufeng Jiang
Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin (INRA, AgroParisTech) - INRA Versailles-Grignon. © INRA, Baptiste Bonjean
By Baptiste Bonjean, translated by Teri Jones-Villeneuve
Updated on 09/14/2015
Published on 09/04/2015

As the recipient of a grant awarded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) through the CAS-Agreenium Joint Doctoral Promotion Program, Yufeng Jiang joined the Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin (INRA, AgroParisTech) at the INRA Versailles-Grignon centre in April 2015 for a year of research focused on nitrogen assimilation by plants.

Now in her third year of doctoral studies,Yufeng is working to complete her programme at the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (SCSIO) in Guangzhou.

From China to France, nitrogen gets put under the microscope

Yufeng Jiang and Anne Krapp, Versailles.. © INRA, Catherine Foucaud
Yufeng Jiang and Anne Krapp, Versailles. © INRA, Catherine Foucaud

 

Yufeng’s research in China examined the microbial diversity associated with seagrass, plants that grow in underwater meadows that crop up in a majority of seas around the globe. She showed that many of the bacteria identified were nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This finding brought her to the INRA Versailles-Grignon centre, where she now works at the Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin in the Nitrogen Use, Transport and Signaling (NUTS) team led by Anne Krapp.

Most plants are unable to take up nitrogen from the air. Instead, they must take it up as nitrate from soil through their roots. This inorganic nitrogen is then assimilated to create organic nitrogen (present in carbon-based molecules), which will then be used to produce proteins and nucleic acids. Crop growth and yields are often limited by nitrogen availability in the soil. The use of nitrogen fertilizers has led to considerable increases in crop yields. However, growing concern regarding the financial and environmental costs of such fertilization due to the rising global population highlights the need to better understand nitrogen use in plants. Anne’s team is taking a closer look at the issue to identify the processes involved in plant response to nitrogen availability and the functions of those processes at a molecular level.

The nitty-gritty of nitrogen metabolism

Nitrate is a major source of nitrogen for plants. It is also a signal molecule that regulates the expression of a number of genes, a process for which only a few regulatory molecules have been identified. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, NIN-like proteins (NLP) are involved in regulating the reaction to nitrates.

Yufeng will spend her year studying the NLP regulation of nitrogen metabolism, specifically in A. thaliana. She is acquiring the techniques and knowledge that will enable her to successfully complete her final thesis year. Moreover, she will round out her work on nitrogen metabolism within another system governed by the interaction between seagrass plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

When in France

Yufeng feels like she is a well-integrated member of the team and that this experience at INRA can only improve her career prospects. Anne highlights the importance of training young motivated scientists as well as the gratification and satisfaction that come from learning about other cultures. Yufeng contributes scientific knowledge about the ocean system that completes the Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin’s expertise on land-based systems.

This process of sharing knowledge and expertise, in which China has become a key partner, makes international exchanges an extremely enriching experience not only for education but for the world of research as well.