2018 research activities
Plants offer the world its only renewable resource of foods, alternative energy and biotherapeutic compounds. Plants have highly sophisticated short and long-term adaptive mechanisms to the environment as a result of the simple fact that they cannot alter their location during environmental change. Basic understanding of how plants react to the environment and why they grow the way they do are central to devising a rational approach to address three important global challenges, namely to secure more and healthier food, to develop novel plant-based products associated with biotherapeutics and to produce alternative energy resources in the form of biofuels. Research activities in the Department of Plant Sciences are associated with all of the above-mentioned global challenges and range from studies on the function and regulation of isolated genes to their interactive behavior in the context of the whole plant. We have developed extensive in-house genomic, bioinformatics and transgenic infrastructure that enables us to isolate novel genes by gene trapping, knockout or map-based cloning. Cloned genes are manipulated and studied by transgenic analysis to establish their potential in the whole plant. Our research as listed below integrates methodologies of molecular biology, protein modeling, genomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics, system biology, genetics, biochemistry and physiology.
Harnessing light energy and energy transduction in the plant cell: Research is carried out on the basic biophysical phenomenon of photon absorption by chlorophyll through transduction of this energy to ATP and the regulation of energy flux by the plant redox state.
Adaptive response in the plant to the biotic and abiotic environment: Molecular mechanisms that drive the cellular response are investigated under environmental perturbation. Research is directed in understanding the elements that play a role in the recognition of pathogens and the subsequent mounting of plant defense responses as well as in the response of plants to abiotic stresses, such as salt stress.
Plant metabolism and growth: Research is centered around elucidating regulatory metabolic networks for production of essential primary and secondary metabolites as well as understanding gene expression and hormonal networks that control plant metabolism, growth, reproduction and productivity.
Plant genome organization: Molecular tools have been developed to examine the fluidity of the plant genome, as described by transposon element, and the evolution of polyploid plants.