Plant growth and development

Many research lines at the Center for Plant Systems Biology aim to unravel the genetic programs that control plant growth and development. Ultimately, these programs determine the morphological and biochemical features of plants that enable them optimize carbon fixation, adapt to their environment, to generate biodiverse ecosystems, and make them suitable for human exploitation. Research topics in this focus area cover aspects of root-, shoot-, and leaf development, as well as plant reproduction. Many projects focus on cell biological phenomena like vesicular trafficking, cell division, or programmed cell death. Furthermore, research approaches address the roles of hormones and secondary metabolites in plant development and during stress responses. A plethora of methods and technologies used to study the dissection and modelling of gene regulatory networks, the role of post-translational protein modification, and protein interaction and complex formation.

This focus area has considerable potential to address climate-related issues. Engineering of metabolic pathways can increase plant resilience to pathogens and environmental stresses including heat, cold, drought, or heavy metals. Metabolic engineering as well as targeted manipulation of cell proliferation can contribute to optimize carbon capture and support the switch to economic structures based on bioenergy and biomaterials. Modulating plant architecture via gene regulatory networks or hormone signaling can increase carbon sequestration and contribute to increased plant performance under stress. Understanding the role of cellular processes such as autophagy, endocytosis, phosphate signaling, or programmed cell death can identify alternative means to increase plant stress resilience. Identification of mechanisms to maximize nitrogen use efficiency and reduce harmful by-products of agriculture such as the green-house gas nitrous oxide are likewise strategies that are likewise pursued.