Computational Biology Seminar Series for Undergraduates

Sponsored by the LSU College of Science, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Center for Computation & Technology and the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network

Identifying the Genetic Component Responsible for Salt-Induced Flowering in the Extremophyte Schrenkiella parvula


The genetic components governing when a plant flowers are diverse and complex, often culminating in multifaceted pathways that are the result of protracted evolutionary periods. It has been known that lengths of days and overall development induce the onset of flowering in plants, but less conspicuous mechanisms governing flowering time exist, namely exposure to abiotic stresses such as salt. The extremophyte Schrenkiella parvula is such an organism that responds to increasing saline stress by flowering sooner in its lifecycle than if it had not been exposed to salt stress. The genetic mechanisms governing this trait are little understood and spark interest in the agricultural community because of the potential they provide for introduction into crops, especially those that are negatively affected by salt conditions making land non-arable. Schrenkiella parvula possesses a unique salt-inducible flowering phenotype and is also a relative to the model plant organism Arabidopsis thaliana, making comparative analyses feasible. This is due to the large bioinformatic and phenotypic repository available for A. thaliana. Inspecting already annotated flowering genes in the model species and comparing expressional variations in the extremophyte when exposed to salt stress is a valid method for elucidating the elusive genetic component of salt-induced flowering. With the use of bioinformatics, an additional approach arises in the form of syntenic analyses for genes of interest as well as cis-element identification in the promoter regions of annotated flowering time genes in the extremophyte Schrenkiella parvula.


Graduating as a bachelor of biochemistry in May of 2017, I have been studying at LSU for nearly four years, an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Dr. Maheshi Dassanayake for three. Early on at LSU I discovered a passion and interest in the field of genetics and decided to pursue that passion. I learned the necessity of utilizing computational tools in analyzing genetic information; namely I began utilizing bioinformatic techniques later in my undergraduate years. My research pertains to the extremophyte Schrenkiella parvula and its salt-inducible flowering phenotype that I have characterized through various experiments, altering NaCl salt quantities and noting differences in flowering. Currently I am searching for the genetic components governing the phenotype. After graduating I intend on continuing my research and finalizing a manuscript for publication.

John Johnson

Undergraduate Researcher, Dept of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University