Ella Katz: The Plant Cell First Author

Ella Katz, first author of “Genetic variation underlying differential ammonium and nitrate responses in Arabidopsis”

Current Position: Postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Dan Kliebenstein at University of California, Davis.

Education: PhD in the lab of Prof. Daniel Chamovitz (Tel Aviv University, Israel), M.S in Plant Sciences, and B.S. in Biotechnology (also Tel Aviv University, Israel).
Non-scientific Interests: Travel, Sport/Pilates, Baking.

Brief bio: I’m fascinated by specialized metabolites, how they help the plant defend against the environment and directly affect the plant itself. Recently, I have been focusing on how the plant genotype and environment intersect to control specialized metabolism at a continental scale and how this simultaneously influences cellular growth in the plant.

To get a better understanding of the genetic and evolutionary processes that influence chemical variation I combined diverse data sources and analyzed this with a breadth of methods. This began to illustrate how biochemical pathways and evolutionary pressures intersect to control specialized metabolite diversity.

To dive into the molecular underpinnings of this variation, I developed a pipeline that combined a classification protocol and several predictive models to categorize large effect loci controlling chemical variation. This showed that the distribution of specialized metabolites is determined by an interaction of geography, environment parameters and different genetic process (e.g., convergent and parallel evolution).

I then turned the focus from the metabolite to the plant to test how all of that variation affects the whole plant. For that we measured metabolite content in plants grown under different environments and studied how glucosinolate genetic variation may influence these processes. We used a massive population with natural variation, measured different traits under different environments, and found that a large number of variable genes are involved in those responses, including glucosinolate variation.

Those studies allowed us to better understand how specialized metabolites interact and affected by the environment, and how this interaction affect the plants.