Copenhagen chemist gets thesis award for uncovering plant regulation mechanisms – University of Copenhagen

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23 September 2013

Copenhagen chemist gets thesis award for uncovering plant regulation mechanisms

PhD thesis award

Starting 2013, the MAX IV Laboratory is awarding an annual prize to the best PhD thesis based upon results obtained fully or partially at the Laboratory. The first ever award was given to University of Copenhagen chemistry PhD Ditte Hededam Welner for her thesis "Structural Studies of a NAC Transcription Factor".

Welners work could ultimately give us the tools to grow stronger, bigger and more nutritious plants. Her PhD supervisor, associate professor Leila Lo Leggio says:

"This is doubly a pleasure: It is recognition for one of my best students, but also recognition of the work we did together

Leila Lo Leggio

Associate professor

Dept. of Chemistry

University of Copenhagen

-It was a great pleasure to be contacted by MAX-lab with the news that Ditte Welner's PhD thesis was chosen as the best thesis resulting partly from MAX-lab results. As her main PhD supervisor, this is doubly a pleasure: it is recognition for one of my best students, but also recognition of the work we did together. It is nice that others thought our efforts were worthwhile”, says Lo Leggio.

Molecular control of growing, surviving and feeding

In her project Welner clarified the way in which NAC plant transcription factor binds to DNA and thereby controls other genes of major importance, influencing such phenomena as development, drought resistance and nutrient quality in crop plants.

X-ray pictures of plant DNA

Welner characterized the interactions between NAC and DNA by bombarding crystals of the complex with X-rays at the MAX-lab synchrotron and other large scale facilities. Figuring out the structure of these biological compounds is a major step towards understanding how they work, because their chemical function is tightly bound to their shape.

The MAX lab Oscars

Ditte Welner carried out her PhD at the Department of Chemistry between year 2007 and 2011 with Ass Prof. Leila Lo Leggio as main supervisor and Prof Karen Skriver (Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen) as co-supervisor. The project was partly funded by FNU (10-084503) and the University of Copenhagen, and some of the results presented in the thesis were published in 2012 in the following reference: Welner, D.H., Lindemose, S., Grossman, G.J., Møllegaard, N.E., Olsen, A.N., Helgstrand, C., Skriver, K. and Lo Leggio, L. (2012) ‘DNA binding by plant NAC proteins: a firm link to WRKY and mammalian GCM transcription factors’. Biochem J. 444,395-404.

The award consisting of a unique statuette was presented to Ditte Welner at the Monday afternoon session of the MAX IV Laboratory 26th Annual User Meeting held in Lund September 23-25, 2013, where Ditte also gave a short presentation of her thesis results