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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal Institut Agro Montpellier LEPSE membre de University of Montpellier Labex AGRO Institut Carnot DigitAg

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Biography Denis Vile

Since 2007, I have been developing a research project in comparative ecophysiology that aims to increase our understanding of the mechanisms of plant tolerance to combinations of edaphic and climatic stresses, in particular drought and high temperatures, in interaction with other abiotic and biotic factors.

At LEPSE since September 2007, I am developing a research project on the genetic determinism of plant responses to multiple environmental factors, in particular high temperatures and water stress, but also heavy metals and biotic factors (soil bacteria, pathogenic viruses).

Plant organisms are constantly under the influences of their biotic and abiotic environment. However, the lack of knowledge about plant responses to combinations of stresses limits our ability to predict agricultural production losses and the impacts of climate change on the functioning of natural and cultivated ecosystems. I study the morpho-physiological and molecular adaptations of natural and cultivated plants, and their genetic determinisms, to combinations of edapho-climatic (water deficit, high temperatures, heavy metals, CO2) and biotic (beneficial bacteria, pathogenic viruses) factors. I am developing a multi-scale comparative ecophysiology approach that benefits from 1) genetic diversity and genomic knowledge of natural and cultivated species, 2) precise environmental control, 3) operational high-throughput phenotyping methods (PHENOPSIS platform) and 4) original statistical and modelling methods.

An integrated and innovative vision of the links between ecology and agronomy, coupled with my skills in data analysis, allow me to contribute to various research fronts in ecology and integrative biology that feed my research project.
My project is structured around two axes whose objectives are :

i) analyse the genetic basis of plant responses to combinations of edapho-climatic and biotic factors, using, among other things, the genetic diversity available in the model species A. thaliana, which is present in a very wide range of climates, and

ii) to improve the understanding of the genetic and physiological constraints that govern the phenotypic space of cultivated species by developing a comparative approach to natural and cultivated species (maize, wheat, rice, grapevine, etc.) at the intra- and inter-specific levels. My work and that of other teams clearly shows that the scientific community has not reached the end of the potential that model species such as A. thaliana offer for integrative biology. However, a comparative approach to other plant species, in particular those of agronomic interest, is needed to develop translational biology.

Our work aims to analyse i) the effects of domestication on physiological and biophysical characteristics related to acquisition strategies and resource use by plants, ii) the extent to which associated trade-offs may have constrained domestication and iii) whether these trade-offs may limit future improvements in changing environments. These analyses combine quantification of plant phenotypes in the field (agronomic plots, experimental garden) and in high-throughput platforms (controlled and fluctuating conditions), the use of databases, modelling and quantitative genetics. Finally, I am currently developing, in collaboration with plant pathologists, a research programme (Chercheur d'Avenir Languedoc-Roussillon APSEVIR project) which aims to analyse the interactions between abiotic stresses and the epidemiological parameters of viruses (tolerance, pathogenicity, transmission).

Research activities

During my doctoral and post-doctoral training, my research activities focused on biological diversity, plant community dynamics and ecosystem functioning. I had the opportunity to approach these topics through a multidisciplinary approach using genetics and population biology, ecophysiology, functional ecology, community ecology and ecosystems. I have been able to develop different aspects, methodological, experimental and statistical modelling, at different levels of biological organisation, keeping in mind the integration of these different levels. Thus, my work extends from the functioning of organs to that of ecosystems, including the functioning of whole plants, the biology of populations and the assembly of plant species into communities.


Plant responses to multiple environmental factors

Understanding and predicting plant responses to high temperatures and water stress is a major challenge for agriculture in the near future. However, plant responses to multiple environmental factors are numerous and complex. In this context, my research project is based on a multivariate quantification of the phenotype (phenotypic space) of plants under controlled and quantified environmental conditions in order to model the interactions between the genotype of plants and their environment (GxE interactions). The phenotypic space is made up of all the characteristics of individuals that can affect their growth, survival and reproduction.