Liliana Avila Ospina
My research interest is the functional analysis of plant HAP2/GCS1 proteins and their role as ancestral eukaryotic gamete fusogens. The fusion of gamete plasma membranes is a critical event in fertilization, but despite the ubiquity of the process among sexually reproducing eukaryotes, no conserved mechanism for gamete fusion has been described. The identification of HAP2/GCS1 (HAPLESS 2) / (GENERATIVE CELL SPECIFIC 1) GSC1 genes in different plant species and the study of their function could lead to a better understanding of the different roles and mechanism of action of this protein during gamete fusion in plant fertilization. For this purpose, this project will undergo the expression of plant HAP2/GCS1 genes in animal models of cell fusion in order to evaluate their activities as “fusogens”. In addition, biochemical and structural analyses of HAP2/GCS1 proteins could possibly unveil the existence of a conserved mechanism of gamete fusion in eukaryotes, providing important knowledge into fundamental biological processes such as membrane fusion and evolution of sexual reproduction.