Jorge research career has always been related to the study of the stress response to heavy metals in plants, with a special focus on iron homeostasis.
Using an integrative approach Jorge uncovered a new key component of iron uptake in dicotyledonous plants that was overlooked for decades. By means of mass spectrometry Jorge identified a new compound produced and excreted to the rhizosphere by Medicago truncatula in response to iron deficiency.
The biochemical pathway leading to the production of such compound responded to iron limitation at protein and transcript level, and a parallel response was observed in Arabidopsis thaliana, but using a different metabolic pathway. The production of such specialised secondary metabolites is crucial for the mobilisation of poorly soluble iron hydroxides. Such discovery has had a great impact in the Fe homeostasis community, changing the paradigm of Strategy I uptake of iron in plants.
An efficient regulatory system that senses the iron status of the plant, and adjusts homeostasis accordingly, is crucial for ensuring enough iron reaches the tissues where it is needed without accumulating to toxic levels. The main transcription factor controlling iron uptake in Arabidopsis is called FER-like Iron deficiency-induced Transcription factor: FIT. Jorge’s last results show that BTSL1 and BTSL2, two hemerythrin E3-ligases, are responsible to mediate FIT turnover and are able to bind iron.
On a more applied perspective, Jorge has also optimised the ferritin extraction from pea for its use as treatment for iron deficiency anemia in humans and developed reporter plants that emit light when they suffer from iron deficiency.
Connorton J. M., Balk J., Rodríguez-Celma J.Iron homeostasis in plants – a brief overview.Metallomics : integrated biometal science (TBC)Publisher's version: 10.1039/c7mt00136c