Section for Molecular Plant Biology
1871 Frederiksberg C
Research focus: Metabolic and Regulatory Networks
Plant metabolism relies on interconnected regulatory feedback loops and balanced investments of resources into growth and defense. Different taxa, species and even chemotypes within a species have evolved different biosynthetic pathways leading to structurally highly diverse specialized metabolites. These pathways require different precursors as metabolic input, and typically specific cell types and microenvironments for production and storage of the compounds. Yet, as the functions of specialized metabolites generally depend on their accumulation in the right tissue at the right time, their biosynthetic pathways must share tight coordination with primary metabolism and development as a common feature.
To ultimately understand how plants integrate internal and external signals to orchestrate metabolic and developmental processes, we study transcriptional regulation (transcription factors, DNA methylation, chromatin modification), post-transcriptional regulation (regulatory RNAs, RNA stability), and post-translational regulation (protein modification, protein stability, protein-protein interactions, metabolite sensing) and how all these regulatory levels are coordinated on the molecular level.
Arabidopsis thaliana and its primary defense compounds, the glucosinolates, have been identified as a prime model system to study regulatory networks. Particularly, the chemically diverse methionine-derived glucosinolates have been recognized for their complex and dynamic regulatory network. Three closely related R2R3 MYB transcription factors have been characterized as direct regulators that cooperatively interact to shape the profile of methionine-derived glucosinolates which changes dynamically in time and space. Additional regulatory mechanisms which appear to contribute to controlling glucosinolate levels in the plant include metabolite sensing, RNA-mediated regulation and protein-protein interactions between biosynthetic enzymes to facilitate efficient channeling of pathway intermediates.