José Manuel Martínez Rivas

   My research career begins with a predoctoral fellowship in the Department of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Sevilla where I performed my Ph.D. Thesis under the supervision of Drs. José M. Vega and Antonio Márquez on the physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology of nitrogen metabolism in photosynthetic organisms. Besides, I was the recipient of a 3-year postdoctoral contract in the same Department to work on the same topic.
    In addition, I carried out two postdoctoral stays of two years each one, funded by the European Union, to investigate within two leading groups in the field of plant fatty acid biosynthesis. First, I was part of the group of Prof. Toni Slabas at the University of Durham (UK) where I studied the structure and regulation of the NADPH-β-ketoacyl-ACP reductase gene from oilseed rape. Afterward, I joined the group of Prof. Ernst Heinz at the University of Hamburg (Germany) to perform the molecular analysis of the high oleic mutation in sunflower.
    Subsequently, in 1999, I joined the group of Prof. Manuel Mancha at the Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC). Firstly, with a research contract to study the regulation of the oleic/linoleic ratio in sunflower oil and, at the end of 2001, with a Ramón y Cajal contract to create a new research line about genomics, molecular biology, and biochemistry in olive, applied to the improvement of virgin olive oil production and quality, in which I still work on.
    In June 2005, I won a permanent position as Científico Titular of CSIC at the Instituto de la Grasa, and then I became Principal Investigator of the group “Genomics, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry of Plant Lipids” (CSIC Ref. 641364).
    The general objective of our research line is the improvement of plant oils production and quality, not only in their nutritional characteristics but also in their organoleptic and technological properties. To achieve that, genomic, molecular, biochemical, and metabolic approaches are performed.
    In particular, we work on the identification, characterization, and study of the regulatory mechanisms by environmental stresses, of genes and enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of compounds that determine the production (triacylglycerols) and the quality (fatty acids present in the triacylglycerols and minor compounds) of virgin olive oil and oilseed oils. In the case of the minor compounds present in virgin olive oil, we focus on those related to the biosynthesis of squalene, sterols, volatile compounds responsible for the aroma, and antioxidants like phenolic compounds or tocopherols. In addition, the participation of our group in the project OLEAGEN allow us to incorporate a genomic approach to our research line in olive oil.
    As specific objectives, we focus on the increase of oil content of the olive fruit and in the improvement of the unsaturated fatty acid composition, as well as in the increase of vitamin E and squalene. The novel information will allow the molecular markers assisted-selection of new olive cultivars producing olive fruit with a higher oil content or oils with improved quality, such as increased content of oleic acid, squalene, or vitamin E.
    Finally, thanks to our participation in the European project OLEUM started in 2016, we have been developed a new research line to certify the authenticity of olive oil, detecting fraudulent mixes with other plant oils utilized as adulterants, using DNA molecular markers.