Contact

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Jacob Blaustein Insts. for Desert Research, French Associates Institute for Agriculture & Biotechnology of Drylands, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, 849900, Israel.

Tel 08-6596837

aaron.fait@gmail.com , fait@bgu.ac.il

 

Academic status

Associate professor

 

Education

B.Sc.-              1993-1996 Tel Aviv University, Dept. of Plant Sciences, Biology

M.Sc.-             1996-1999, Tel Aviv University, Dept. of Plant Sciences

                    Advisor: Prof. Jacob Friedman.

Title of thesis: Genecology of indigenous populations of Foeniculum vulgare var. vulgare in Israel

 

Ph.D.-             1999-2004, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Dept. of Plant Sciences 

Advisors: Prof. H. Fromm and Prof. G. Galili.

Title of Thesis: Functional characterization of the GABA shunt in Arabidopsis.

 

Employment History

Since Aug 2014 Associate Professor, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Jacob Blaustein Insts. for Desert Research, Dept. of Dryland Biotechnology, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, 84990.

2008(Oct) - 2014(Jul),          Senior Lecturer Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Jacob Blaustein Insts. for Desert Research, Dept. of Dryland Biotechnology, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, 84990.

2005(Oct)- 2008(Sept),    Post-Doctoral Research Associate; the Max Planck Institute for Plant Molecular Physiology (Golm, Germany), Dept. 1 of Molecular Physiology

2004(Sept)-2005(Sept),   Post-Doctoral Research Fellow; the Weizmann Institute of Science, The Dept. of Plant Sciences, in the laboratory of Prof. Gadi Galili. Central metabolism in seeds.

2002, Teacher of Biology and Chemistry, Amit High school, Rehovot, Israel.

 

 

Professional activities

Positions in academic administration (departmental, faculty and university)

The Israel Society of Plant Science (member of the steering committee)

Membership in professional/scientific societies

·         2009- present The Metabolomics Society

·         2009- present The Israel Society of Plant Science (member of the steering committee)

 

Educational activities

a) Courses taught

2001,

- Ecology and environment in Israel: facts and scientific research. Invited lecture series under the sponsorship of the Israeli embassy in Rome, in high-schools of Italian cities (among other Milan, Turin, Bologna, Udine, Trieste, Verona and Bolzano).

2006 and 2007,

- Bioethics seminar course, guest lecturer at Department of Law, The II University of Naples, the department of Biology, Politecnico Milan and the Department of Law, University of Salerno.

2008,

- Metabolic networks: steady state and flux analysis to understand plant metabolism, MPI-MP and University of Potsdam. Two days workshop open to PhD and PostDocs.

2009,

- Metabolic steady state and flux analysis, guest lecture, The Blaustein Insitute for Desert Research.

- Biofuel: present and future of green sources of energy. Educational program for  high-schools in Torino, Italy (Vallauri, Gioberti, Amaldi, Avogadro, IPSIA).

2010,

- Metabolic Network Analysis, graduate course, Albert Katz International School for graduate studies,  The Blaustein Insitute for Desert Research.

- Metabologeography, (guest lecture) graduate course, Bar Ilan University.

- Cereal genomics (intensive course), Coordinated with Luigi Cattivelli (CRA-Fiorenzuola, Italy). Albert Katz International School for graduate studies,  The Blaustein Insitute for Desert Research.

2011,

- Metabolic Network Analysis, graduate course, Albert Katz International School for graduate studies, BIDR.

- Seed germination workshop, coordinated with Hiro Nonogaki (Oregon State University). Albert Katz International School for graduate studies, BIDR.

- Who is afraid of Science, one week seminars in the frame of the educational program for high-schools and undergraduates, Torino, Italy

 Research students

Postdoctoral Researchers

2009-2010, Dr Luis Perez Alba

Graduate Students

2009-present, David Toubiana, PhD

2009-present, Lydia Quansah, PhD

2010-present, Lee Recht, jointly with Prof. S. Boussiba

2010-present, Asfaw Degu, PhD

2011-present, Batushansky Albert, PhD

2009-2011,  Batushansky Albert, MSc

2009-present, Wentao Xue, MSc

2010-present, Bing Bai, MSc

2010-present Leah Zucker, MSc

2009-present Kazachkova Yana, MSc, currently PhD, jointly with Dr. S. Barak

2009-present, Uri Hochberg, MSc currently PhD jointly with Dr S. Rachmilevitch

2011-present, Jin Gao, PhD student

Awards, Citations, Honors, Fellowships

1993-1998, the Dept. of School and University Assistance, District of Bolzano, Alto Adige-Suedtirol, Italy, fellowship for academic achievements.

2001, Marie Curie Foundation, Marie-Curie European Fellowship, University of Leeds, UK.

2000- 2004, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Feinberg graduate school fellowship (PhD).

2005, the Gordon Research Conferences Board of Trustees, the Carl Storm International Diversity Fellowship.

2005, Gordon Research Conferences fund, GRC Chair's fund fellowship for the 2005 Plant Metabolic Engineering Gordon Research Conference, Tilton, NH, USA.

2008, Cited as the editor's choice in the Plant Physiology issue 148.

Fellowships

2004-2005, Feinberg Postgraduate research fellowship 15,000 Euro

2005- 2006, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, research fellowship, 30,000 Euro

2006- 2008, Minerva Foundation, research fellowship, 66,000 Euro

Grant Panels, Reviewing Committee

2009- Referee for the German Israel Foundation

2009- Organizing committee of the Israel Plant Science Society

2009- Examination committee of 3d year undergraduate student course at BGU main campus.

2009- PhD thesis reviewer for HUJI, Life Science dept.

2010- PhD thesis reviewer, Plant Sciences Dpt. (Dr. Aharoni), the Weizmann Inst.

2010- Examination of PhD candidates, BGU.

2011- PhD thesis reviewer, Haifa University (Prof. Fahima)

2011- BARD reviewing panel

Publications

https://scholars.bgu.ac.il/display/fait

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aaron_Fait 

Grants

2008 Jan-Sept, co-PI German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, GIF grant “GABA/Glutamate in Plants, linking carbon nitrogen metabolism to signalling", PI: A.Fernie, H.Fromm, G.Galili, F.Ludewig and Co-PI: A. Fait and L.Wilmitzer, ~47,600/188,955 Euro.

2008 Oct-2011 Dec, PI German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, GIF grant “GABA/Glutamate in Plants, linking carbon nitrogen metabolism to signalling", PIs: A.Fernie, A. Fait, H.Fromm, G.Galili, F.Ludewig, Co-PI: L.Wilmitzer, ~47,600/188,955Euro.

2009-2012 BARD, Calcium-regulated Transcription Factors Mediating Carbon Metabolism in Response to Drought. Fromm, Hillel, Hasegawa, Paul M, Co-I: Fait, Aaron. 60,000/360,000$

2010-2012 Kochland Fundation, Unlocking the genetic treasures of the Negev Desert: A Molecular Ecology Approach to Mining Stress-Tolerance Genes Underlying Wild Species Adaptation to Stress. Barak S, Fait A, Bar David S. 30,000$/year for two years.

2010-2013, Ministry of Agrigulture, Vine responses to water deficit: A multidisciplinary study from plant physiology to wine character, PIs: Rachmilevitch S. Co-PI Fait A., Co-I: Karnieli A. 190.000 NIS/yr for a period of 3 years, Tot 570.000NIS.

2009, BSCS support for visitor. Hiro Nonogaki, Oregon State University

2010, BSCS financial aid for the organization of the Annual meeting of the Israeli Society of Plant Sciences

2011, BSCS support for visitor. Leonie Bentsink, Wageningen.

2011-2014, BARD, Towards improved grape nutrition and defense: The regulation of stilbene metabolism under drought. PIs: Fait A., Cramer G., Perl A. 300,000$.

2010-2011, Sol Leshin Program for BGU-UCLA Academic  Cooperation. Arnon Karnieli, Aaron Fait and Shimon Rachmilevitch.

2010-2014, BSF, Spatio-temporal diversification of metabolism and its functional significance during seed germination, PIs: Fait A., Nonogaki H. 228,850$

2011-2014, Chief Scientist, The effect of roots and shoots on fruit metabolism of grape in drought stress. co-PI with Giora Ben Ari Volcani Institute, 450,000NIS.

2011-2014, Chief Scientist, co-PI with David Bonfil. Improving winter wheat tolerance to unpredictable rainfall and temperature regimes. #277-036-10, 1.2M NIS

2011-2012 (two years), Eureka R&D project, Italy-Israel cooperation. Metagenecoding Bosca. 47.000 EURO.

2011. Bosca Ltd. support. The Bosca Muscat-grape collection. 4000 EURO.

2011-2012 Goldinger Fund, Towards improved grape (Vitis viniferae) nutrition and defense under drought. Fait A 25000 $/year

2011-2013 Goldinger Fund, Effect of salinity stress on transpiration, growth, yield and quality of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum). Naftali Lazarovitch Co-I: Fait A 25000$/year.

2011-2013, Sol Leshin Program for BGU-UCLA Academic  Cooperation. Amino acid regulation in Tomato. Fait A and Horvath S.

2011-2014, Singenta, three years contract, total of 340.000 EURO. PI Fait A, Lazarovitch N, Rachmilevitch S.

2012-2014, (36mths) The Italy - Israel Cooperation in Agricultural Research Program 2011 (Italy-Israel program). Rootstock-scion INteraction in Grape: an Omics perspective (RINGO). 275.000 Euros € (Italy: 140.000; Israel: 135.000). Participant.

Current Scientific Activities

1.     The metabolic basis of seed development and germination in Arabidopsis

2.     The impact of root stock and environmental stress on grape berry development and metabolism. In separate collaborations with Prof G Cramer, Prof A Perl, Dr S Rachmilevitch and Prof A Karnieli, Dr G Ben Ari. 

3.     Mapping natural variability in Tomato seeds: a metabolic perspective. In collaboration with Dr AR Fernie and Prof D Zamir;

4.     The effect of salt stress on Tomato seeds metabolism. In collaboration with Dr S Sarranga.

5.     Mapping metabolic processes during Tomato seed germination. In collaboraiton with Prof H Nonogaki

6.     The impact of water quality on the basil leaves metabolism. In collaboration with Dr N Lazarovitch

7.     Seasonal changes of metabolite processes in Zygophyllum simplex. In collaboration with Prof G Grafi

8.     The metabolic basis of drought tolerance in natural wheat populations. In collaboration with Prof T Fahima and Dr S Sarranga

9.     A multidisciplinary study of the mechanisms underlying Arabidopsis relatives stress tolerance. In collaboration with Dr S Barak and Dr S Bar David

10.  Metabolic networks in volatile producing seeds of Nigella sativa. In collaboration with Prof E Lewinsohn

11.  The metabolic faith of amino acids in melons. In collaboration with Prof E Lewinsohn

12.  Glu-GABA and TCA cycle crosstalk: understanding C-N balance in plants. In collaboration with Prof G Galili.

 

Synopsis of research interests

The Laboratory for Metabolic Networks in Dryland Crops

Aaron Fait

 

Metabolic networks. In plant science a systems approach has replaced the reductionism view of the metabolic complexity. This shift in concept has been possible with the advent of high throughput metabolic profiling, bioinformatics and flux analysis. Integrative studies combining the different 'omics fields while taking advantage from available molecular strategies and mutants collections are crucial and require powerful statistical and analytical tools for complex dataset elaboration. The projects that I lead reflect, on the one, the motivation to improve crop nutritional-value/yield and, on the other, the interest in plant-environment interaction, ecology and evolution as reflected by the natural variability of metabolism and metabolic regulation. Special attention is given to the seed, its nutritional quality, development and physiology of germination.

In the past two years the laboratory has established a metabolomics platform integrated with cutting edge technologies and bioinformatics defining a systems approach to metabolism of stress and crop improvement.

 

The laboratory leads three major projects:

 

1. Regulatory networks of seed development and germination. Regulation of seed germination is of vital importance in a plant's life cycle, particularly in habitats having low rainfall highly discontinuous and can have implication on plant growth and yield. Germination is governed in a synergistic manner by (a) pre-dispersal factors and (b) post-dispersal factors. This matrix of elements as well as the multiple signals involved remains widely obscure despite the economic importance. With the aim of isolating regulatory modules, we study metabolic networks and transcript profiles during seed maturation and germination of plants grown under a predetermined set of environmental conditions. We further assess the effect of pre-dispersal components on seed germination and seedling establishment. Pre-dispersal and post dispersal data will be integrated in order to define network modules. The study will include diverse ecotypes of Arabidopsis with different as well as mutants aberrant in their germination physiology (e.g. ABA insensitive mutants and DOG mutants). The information gathered will set the basis for a model to predict seed traits (e.g. oil content, proteins, seedling survival) and it will be tested in crops e.g. canola and wheat. Fait has wide experience on seed development in different species (Fait et al., 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010), Mrs Quansah (PhD student) is studying the effect of drought on wheat grain development from a metabolic standpoint in two natural populations of wheat, drought sensitive and drought resistance. Mrs Quansah is also collaborating on wheat alloplasmic lines with the genomic center of Fiorenzuola and presented her results in different international meetings, the last one as an invited plenary lecture of mine in Bologna. A Preproposal on Wheat seed quality to the MERC has been accepted for full proposal submission in 2010. Mr Bing Bai is invastigating the role of metabolic natural variability in seed tolerance to dehydration across ecotypes of Arabidopsis and Arabidopsis relatives of the Negev desert (funded by the Kochland foundation). Plant Cell Physiology has chosen Mr Bing project to be published (following peer review) in the Jan issue of 2012. MSc Xue is studying seed developmental program of different metabolic processes in volatile producing seeds of Nigella sativa. Fait has recently joined several consortia from Israel and Europe, to study seed collections of wild populations of different species. Fait collaborates with the seed laboratory in Wageningen; Dr. Bentsink from the Wageningen research center visited Israel and our labs joined forses to elucidate the regulation of maternal effect on postdispersal performances from a genomics standpoint (the visit was funded by the BSCS).

 

2. Seed metabolism: making use of transgenic and mutants of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and Glu-GABA metabolism in Arabidopsis we aim at understanding the role of these metabolic routes particularly during seed development and germination under stress. The approach is to integrate metabolic profiling, metabolic flux analysis (MFA) with transcript analysis (microarray and RT-PCR). The strategy involves seed specific promoter regulated expression of genes.  C/N partitioning in seeds, improving current biofuel-crops, In an effort to understand the mechanisms that regulate use and allocation of resources in seeds, we combine metabolic steady state and high-throughput flux analysis (fluxomics) to study pathway competition and inter-pathway regulation of carbon flow. A GIF research grant and a BARD (Co-I) are financing research on this topic and MSc Batushanksi is investigating the role of GABA and the interplay of between C-N metabolism and the GABA shunt.

 

3. Natural variation and Seed Vs Fruit interaction: We study the tomato introgression lines collection (along successive seasons), originated in D. Zamir Laboratories at the Faculty of Agriculture, to discern the effect on seed quality traits of wild ancestor introgression in the genome of the cultivated variety. By employing correlation based methods of analysis we further test the relationship between seed and fruit traits and elaborate the breeding as well as evolutionary implications that might arise. PhD Toubiana is finalizing two manuscripts on the subject, looking at metabolic networks dynamics across the population in seeds and in fruits. We are continuing this suty with Dr Sarranga on the impact of salt stress on the metabolism of seeds across the IL collection. Recently we moved our attention to grape, stemming from an ongoing collaboration with Italian partners in the industry (Bosca SPA) and in research institutions (Uni of Torino, Uni of Verona and Genome Centre of Fiorenzuola, Volcani center). Currently we have four funded projects on grape, a BARD (PI) in collaboration with Prof Cramer (Reno-Nevada) and Prof Perl (Volcani), a research fund from the Ministry of Agriculture with Dr. Rachmilevitch and Prof Karnieli, a research fund from the Jewish foundation, and a Chief scientist grant in collaboration with Giora Ben Ari of the Volcani Institute. Two students, MSc Hochberg and PhD Degu are working on the subject studying the interplay between primary and secondary metabolism in skin and seeds of different dark-skinned grape cultivars in response to drought and defining the impact on final product quality, i.e. the wine.