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Katherine Warpeha
Katherine Warpeha, PhD
Assistant Professor
UIC Biological Sciences, MBRB 4270 M/C 567
900 South Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60607

Office: (312) 996-7646
Lab: (312) 996-0549
Fax: (312) 413-2691
Email: kwarpeha@uic.edu

Dr. Warpeha's Lab website


About Dr. Warpeha's Research

Our laboratory is interested in compelling questions in cellular signaling and development in the seed to seedling transition.

G-protein regulation of early development and responses to the environment. Eukaryotic cells receive many signals from the environment. We examine some of the features of cellular signaling as mediated by GTP-binding (G)-proteins. This NSF-funded work has focused on abiotic signals that elicit G-protein signaling and the resulting effects on organism development. We utilize the simple genetic model Arabidopsis thaliana. A critical period in plant development is the transition from seed to seedling, where the young plant must go from an embryonic developmental program to an independent, photosynthesizing organismal program. Three of the effector proteins that we are interested in understanding better are Pirin1 (PRN1), Oberon (OBE), and PD1/ADT3.

Regulation of cellular antioxidant levels. The G-Protein signal pathway GCR1-GPA1-PD1/ADT3 regulates the phenylpropanoid levels in the germinating seedling, but so does GPA1-PRN1 from a different metabolic perspective. We are studying these pathways to better understand how the young seedling orients itself as a result of Global Change, i.e. changes in abiotic and biotic stressors. Plants are subjected to many abiotic (cold, heat, salt, varying light and radiation qualities) and biotic (fungus, insects, nematodes etc) signals ordinarily in the environment, and must make different chemicals to survive. When changes in abiotic and biotic signals happen too quickly as a result of human activity, there are negative effects on world agriculture and ecosystems. How we can regulate plant responses to attenuate certain aspects of the phenylpropanoid pathway may help plants to withstand changing environmental pressures. Some of this work in soybean has been supported by the Illinois Soybean Association.

Application of antioxidants to human health and disease. Antioxidant profiles of plants have many uses in treating illness and disease in humans. We are investigating the utility of particular antioxidants and other plant products in attenuating cell inflammation and survival. We have also initiated work in strawberry and blueberry to study the effects of particular compounds on cellular stress. Particular constituents of developing leaf material may be effective in reducing inflammation, an important precursor condition to many chronic dangerous diseases. We are working to identifying these constituents and using specific plant strains to "farm" these materials to screen for effective materials to use in medicine.

Representative Publications

Orozco-Nunnelly et al. (2014) Pirin1 (PRN1) Is a Multifunctional Protein that Regulates Quercetin, and Impacts Specific Light and UV Responses in the Seed-to-Seedling Transition of Arabidopsis thaliana. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093371

Warpeha, K.M. *, Park, Y-D., Williamson, P.R. (2013) Susceptibility of intact germinating Arabidopsis thaliana to human fungal pathogens Cryptococcus neoformans and C. gattii. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79, 1-9.