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Research Activities

At the Plant Functional Genomics Lab, we study the mechanisms of plant response to the environment, to further use this knowledge for crop improvement.


Areas of research:


  • Identification and characterization of new players in plant response to abiotic stress, with a focus on transcription factors (TFs) and their regulation

  • Morpho-physiological characterization of plant development and behavior under stress conditions

  • Development of biotech tools for important crops using genome editing (CRISPR-Cas), in vitro manipulation, conventional genetic transformation and marker-assisted selection

  • Bioinformatics applied to transcriptomic and genomic data

  • Epigenetic modifications in plant development and abiotic stress adaptation

  • Proteome regulation during abiotic stress response, including post-translational modifications (e.g. ubiquitination and phosphorylation)

  • Characterization of the natural allelic variability in genes responsible for important traits


In our research we use several plant species:


  • Rice (Oryza sativa L.)

Rice is the staple-food for almost 2/3 of the world population. It is considered a model-species for cereal crops and it is a traditional culture in Portugal. The Portuguese are by far the largest rice consumers/capita in Europe, and Portugal produces about 60% of the internal needs. Cold and salinity are the main abiotic stresses affecting rice culture in Portugal.

We have been developing an integrative approach using various molecular and biotech tools, in order to better understand how rice interacts with the surrounding environment and how different varieties have adapted to different climates.

This knowledge may support the development of breeding strategies contributing to sustainable crop production under adverse environmental conditions. We are also trying to understand the role of in vitro culture in the proteomic and transcriptomic differences found between transgenic and non-transgenic rice lines.


  • Cork oak (Quercus suber L.)

Cork oak forests are unique and emblematic resources in the Mediterranean region, with high economic, ecological and social significance, mostly due to cork culture. Portugal is the world leader in cork production and cork oak is the dominant species in Portuguese forests. Two major bottlenecks towards sustainability of cork culture are the lack of fundamental knowledge on key biological aspects of cork development, and the time required for the first cork harvest, with producers seeking better agronomic practices to accelerate growth. Using our expertise in abiotic stress plant response, we have recently started to focus on this species in order to contribute to understand how cork development is regulated by abiotic stress.

More particularly, we aim to describe the independent and combinatorial effect of drought and heat stress in activity of the cork cambium and suberization, through morphophysiological and transcriptomic approaches. 

We are also participating in the cork oak genome sequencing consortium and in the development of the CorkOakDB web portal.


Other plant models:

  • Purging nut (Jatropha curcas L.)

It is a small tree belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family and it is an emerging biodiesel plant. It is also known for its ability to survive in poor soils and under severe drought and salt conditions. It may help us to identify new mechanisms to cope with adverse environmental conditions.


  • Almond tree (Prunus dulcis Mill.)

One of the first plant species we studied in our lab. It belongs to the important family of fruiting plants (Rosaceae), it is very close to peach (with which it can easily hybridize with) and it is a traditional crop with economical interest in Portugal. It has interesting features such as being highly self-incompatible. Moreover, it is the first to bloom among Rosaceae, which makes it an interesting species to study the mechanisms controlling flowering time.


  • Arabidopsis thaliana L.

A. thaliana is one of the widely accepted model plants. The large number of molecular tools available (mutants, easy transformation protocols, high marker density...), together with the short life cycle and reduced size make it a very useful species for fundamental research, and gene functional characterization.



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