I am currently a co-PI in an interdisciplinary project to rehabilitate a forgotten and underutilized African legume, African Yam Bean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa). This project is in collaboration with IITA and is currently funded by Research England under GCRF. Compared to other more well-known legume crops that are consumed for their beans, the African Yam Bean (AYB) can be consumed for both beans and tubers formed on the same plant. From our Peas ‘n Chips Project, we had identified several traits that need to be improved for AYB. One of these traits is bigger tubers. However, tuber development in legume plants has not been comprehensively characterised yet. Therefore, my project focuses on characterising the tuber development in AYB and understanding the mechanism for further trait improvement.
During my PhD, I have characterised the first CEP (C-terminally Encoded Peptide) in the model legume, Medicago truncatula. This signaling peptide, MtCEP1, is secreted extracellularly and binds to its putative receptor, CRA2. This peptide regulates nodule formation during nitrogen limitation. Currently, I am exploring another type of regulatory peptides that act intracellularly called micropeptides. I am studying the roles of one of these micropeptides in nodule vascular development.