Ayalew Ligaba Osena

Ayalew Ligaba Osena

Associate Professor

(336) 256-0328
308 Sullivan Science Building


Molecular biology, genomics and biotechnology, underutilized crops for food security and health, extremophiles for novel abiotic stress resilience traits


Ph.D., Okayama University


My laboratory focuses on using molecular-genetic and biotechnological tools to improve desirable traits such as yield, nutritional quality and stress resilience in economically important crops including underutilized/orphan crops such as teff (Eragrostis tef) and millets. These crops have a great potential for food security due to their nutritional quality, health benefits, role in sustainable agriculture, and resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses. My lab is also interested in identifying and importing novel traits from extremophiles to improve crops resilience to abiotic stress due to climate change.

Research opportunities:

Undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in our research that focuses on identification of novel plant traits that regulate stress resilience and nutritional quality of cereals are encouraged to contact Dr. Osena by email (alosena@uncg.edu). Students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in molecular biology/biotechnology techniques.

Selected Publications

Abreham Bekele-Alemu, and Ayalew Ligaba-Osena (2023)In silico analysis of the underutilized crop tef (Eragrostis tef (Zucc. Trotter) genome reveals drought tolerance signaturesBMC Plant Biology, 23:506.

Christopher Cotter, Allison J. Wright, Anastasia Romanov, Tyler N. Graf, Eric WhisnantLaura Flores-Bocanegra, Megan Doldron, Nicholas H. Oberlies, Zhenquan Jia, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena. (2023) Evaluating the Antioxidant Properties of an Ancient Crop Tef (Eragrostis tef) Grain Extracts in THP-1 Monocytes. Antioxidants, 12, 1561.

 Raza Ullah, Martin Tsz-Ki Tsui, Alex Chow, Huan Chen, Clinton Williams, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena (2023) Polystyrene micro(nano)plastics in terrestrial ecosystem: From soil, plants, animals, to humans – A systematic review. Environ Monit Assess 195, 252.

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Mohammad Salehin, Muhammad Numan, Xuegeng Wang, Snag Chul Choi, Dereje Jima, Louis-Marie Bobay, Wnali Guo (2022) Genome-Wide Transcriptome Analysis of the orphan crop tef (Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) TrotterUnder Long-term Low Calcium Stress. Sci Rep 12, 19552.

Rammyani Bagchi, Rachel Tinker-Kulberg, Mohammad Salehin, Tinku Supakar, Sydney Chamberlain, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Eric A. Josephs (2022) Polyvalent Guide RNAs for CRISPR Antivirals. iScience, 25, 105333.

Muhammad Numan, Wanli Guo, Sang Chul Choi, Xuegeng Wang, Boxuan Du, Weibo Jin, Ramji Kumar Bhandari, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena (2022) Analysis of miRNAs responsive to long-term Calcium deficiency in tef (Eragrostis tef (Zucc.), Plant Direct, 10;6(5):e400.

Muhammad Numan, Desalegn D. Serba and Ayalew Ligaba-Osena. Alternative Strategies for Multi-Stress Tolerance and Yield Improvement in Millets: Genes 2021, 12(5), 739.

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Mitiku Mengistu, Getu Beyene, John Cushman, Raymond Glahn, Miguel Piñeros. Grain mineral nutrient profiling and iron bioavailability of an ancient crop tef (Eragrostis tef): AJCS 2021, 15(10):1314-1324.

Raza Ullah, Huan Chen, Alex Chow, Martin Tsui, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena. Microplastics interaction with terrestrial plants and its impacts on agriculture. J. Environ. Qual. 2021; 50:1024–1041.

Qianqian Xiang, Siyuan Hu, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Jiayao Yang, Fudan Tong, Wanli Guo (2021) Seasonal Variation in Transcriptomic Profiling of Tetrastigma hemsleyanum Fully Developed Tuberous Roots Enriches Candidate Genes in Essential Metabolic Pathways and Phytohormone Signaling. Front. Plant Sci. doi:10.3389/fpls.2021.659645.

Muhammad Numan, Abdul Latif Khan, Sajjad Asaf, Mohammad Salehin, Getu Beyene, Zerihun Tadele and Ayalew Ligaba-Osena (2021) From traditional breeding to cutting edge genome editing in boosting productivity of the ancient grain tef (Eragrostis tef): A review: Submitted to Plants. Plants 2021, 10(4), 628.

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Wanli Guo, Sang chul Choi, Matthew Alan Limmer, Angelia L. Seyfferth, Bertrand B. Hankoua (2020). Silicon enhances biomass and grain yield in an ancient crop tef [Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter]. Frontiers in Plant Sciences, Vol. 11, Article 608503.

Christopher Cotter, Allison J. Wright, Tyler N. Graf, Laura Flores-Bocanegra, Megan Doldron, Nicholas H. Oberlies, Zhenquan Jia, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena. Evaluating the Antioxidant Properties of an Ancient Crop Tef (Eragrostis tef) Grain Extracts in THP-1 Monocytes (submitted)

Raza Ullah, Martin Tsz-Ki Tsui, Alex Chow, Huan Chen, Clinton Williams, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena. Polystyrene micro(nano)plastics in terrestrial ecosystem: From soil, plants, animals, to humans – A systematic review (Submitted)

Edossa Wayima, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Kifle Dagne, Kassahun Tesfaye, Eunice Machuka, Samuel Mutiga and Emmanuel Delhaize. Screening of diverse Ethiopian durum wheat accessions for aluminum tolerance. Agronomy 2019, 9, 440

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Kay DiMarco, Tom Richard & Bertrand Hankoua. 2018. The maize Corngrass1 miRNA-regulated developmental alterations are restored by a bacterial ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase in transgenic tobacco (Int J Genomics, in press)

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Jenna Jones, Emanuel Donkor, Sanjeev Chandrayan, Farris Poole, Chang-Hao Wu, Claire Vieille, Michael W. W. Adams & Bertrand Hankoua. 2018. Novel bioengineered cassava expressing an archaeal starch degradation system and a bacterial ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase for starch self-digestibility and yield increase. Front Plant Sci. Vol. 9, February 26, 2018

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Bertrand Hankoua, Kay DiMarco, Robert Pace, Mark Crocker, Jesse McAtee, Nivedita Nagachar, Ming Tien & Tom Richard. 2017. Reducing biomass recalcitrance by heterologous expression of a bacterial peroxidase in tobacco. Sci Rep, 7: 17104

Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Zhangjun Fei, Jiping Liu, Yumin Xu, Jon Shaff, Sung-Chul Lee, Sheng Luan, Joerg Kudla, Leon Kochian & Miguel Piñeros. 2017. Loss-of-function mutation of the calcium sensor CBL1 increases aluminum-sensitivity in Arabidopsis. New Phytol. 214, 830–841

Rita Kusi-Appiah Hayford, Ayalew Ligaba-Osena, Mayavan Subramani, Adrianne Brown, Latha Melmaiee, Khwaja Hossain & Venu (Kal) Kalavacharla. 2017. Expression analysis of the common bean histone deacetylase gene at Different Developmental Stages and during Cold Stress. Int J Genomics 2017, Article ID 2502691

Ayalew Ligaba, Ingo Dreyer, Armine Margaryan, David J Schneider, Leon Kochian & Miguel Piñeros. 2013. Functional, structural and phylogenetic analysis of domains underlying the Al sensitivity of the aluminum-activated malate/anion transporter, TaALMT1. Plant J 76:766-180

Ayalew Ligaba, Lyza Maron, Miguel Piñeros, Jon Shaff & Leon Kochian. 2012. Maize ZmALMT2 is a root anion transporter that mediates constitutive root malate efflux.  Plant Cell Environ. 35: 1185-1200

Ayalew Ligaba, Maki Katsuhara, Mineo Shibasaka & Gemechis Djira. 2011. Cloning and functional analysis of major intrinsic proteins in barley: abiotic stresses modulate expression of barley MIP genes. Compt Rend Biol. 334: 127-139.

Ayalew Ligaba & Maki Katsuhara. 2010. Insights into the salt tolerance mechanisms in barley (Hordeum vulgare) from comparisons of cultivars that differ in salt sensitivity. J Plant Res, 123: 105-118.

Ayalew Ligaba, Leon Kochian & Miguel Piñeros. 2009. Phosphorylation at S384 regulates the activity of the TaALMT1 malate transporter that underlines aluminum resistance in wheat. Plant J 60:411-423

Ayalew Ligaba, Maki Katsuhara, Wataru Sakamoto & Hideaki Matsumoto. 2007. The BnALMT1 protein that is an aluminum-activated malate transporter is localized in the plasma membrane. Plant Signal Behav 2: 255-257.

Ayalew Ligaba, Maki Katsuhara, Peter. R. Ryan, Mineo Shibasaka & Hideaki Matsumoto. 2006. The BnALMT1 and BnALMT2 genes from Brassica napus L. encode aluminum-activated malate transporters that enhance the aluminum resistance of plant cells. Plant Physiol 142: 1294-1303.

Hong Shen., Fei Long He, Takayuki Sasaki, Yoko Yamamoto, Shao Jian Zheng, Ayalew Ligaba, Xiaolong Yan, Sung Ju Ahn, Mineo Yamaguchi, Hideo Sasakawa & Hideaki Matsumoto. 2005. Citrate secretion coupled with the modulation of soybean root tip under aluminum stress: Up-regulation of transcription, translation and threonine-oriented phosphorylation of plasma membrane H+-ATPase. Plant Physiol 138, 287-296

Ayalew Ligaba, Hong Shen, Koichi Shibata, Yoko Yamamoto, Shigemi Tanakamaru, & Hideaki Matsumoto. 2004. The role of phosphorus in aluminum-induced citrate and malate exudation from rape (Brassica napus L.). Physiol Plant 120: 575-584

Ayalew Ligaba, Mineo Yamaguchi, Hong Shen, Takayuki Sasaki, Yoko Yamamoto & Hideaki Matsumoto. 2004. Phosphate deficiency enhances plasma membrane H+-ATPase activity and citrate exudation in greater purple lupin (Lupinus pilosus). Funct Plant Biol. 31: 1075-1083

Hong Shen, Ayalew Ligaba, Mineo Yamaguchi, Hiroki Osawa, Koichi Shibata, Xialolong Yan & Hideaki Matsumoto. 2004. Effect of K-252a and abscisic acid on the efflux of citrate from Soybean (Glycine max). J Exp Bot. 55: 663-671




Plant Physiology and Biotechnology (BIO 424)

Global Change (BIO 456)

Honors Work (BIO 493)

Undergraduate Independent Research (BIO 499)

Plant Physiology (BIO 619)

Current Research in Environmental Health Science (BIO 734)