Ana Assuncao

Ana Assuncao

Associate Professor

Current research


Ana Assuncao Lab 


Micronutrient zinc sensing, homeostasis regulation and

F-bZIP transcription factors


The focus of my research group is the study of the micronutrient zinc (Zn) deficiency response in plants and its transcriptional regulation, anchored at the F-bZIP transcription factors. We study the molecular mechanisms underlying the Arabidopsis F-bZIP regulatory network, including: i) the Zn-sensor function of F-bZIP transcription factors, ii) the role of F-bZIP target genes in the Zn deficiency response, and iii) modulation of F-bZIP transcription factor’s activity, as molecular switches, to impact plant Zn accumulation and Zn use-efficiency traits. Our work includes exploring the evolutionarily conserved F-bZIP regulatory network of land plants, by analysing F-bZIP homolog’s regulatory network in different model crop species (rice, legume and tomato).


The objectives are, to obtain functional knowledge of the F-bZIP regulatory network and its role in the Zn deficiency response in plants, from molecular to plant levels, to integrate this knowledge in an evolutionary context, and give it an applied perspective. The latter envisages using targeted or natural F-bZIP variants to modulate Zn accumulation and use-efficiency traits, contributing to plant Zn biofortification efforts, while valuing plant genetic resources as a repository of useful natural variation.


The research group was established in 2015 when I received a YDUN grant (Younger Women in a University career Program) from the Danish Council for Independent Research. Since 2011 I had been trying to establish a research team to investigate the Arabidopsis F-bZIP transcription factors, bZIP19 and bZIP23, which were previously identified as the first regulators of Zn homeostasis (Assunção et al., 2010). The strategy comprised further assessing i) whether bZIP19 and bZIP23 act as Zn-sensors (as proposed theoretically; Assunção et al., 2013), ii) whether there is conservation of the F-bZIP regulatory network in crop species, and iii) whether F-bZIPs activity can be modulated to impact plant Zn content. Recently, we published the main results of the YDUN project in Nature Plants, including in planta analyses of mutant lines and in vitro Zn-protein binding assay, to show that “Arabidopsis bZIP19 and bZIP23 act as zinc sensors to control plant zinc status” (Lilay et al., 2021;


Group members

Grmay Hailu Lilay (Postdoc researcher)

Pedro Humberto Castro (Postdoc researcher, @UPorto)

Feixue Liao (PhD student)

Siting Zhao (PhD student)

Sjors Huizinga (MSc student)


Research projects

2020-2023 Danish Council for Independent Research, Research Project 2 (PI)

2019-2022 Novo Nordisk Foundation, Biotechnology-based Synthesis and Production Research (PI)

2019-2022 China Scholarship Council (PhD scholarship)

2018-2021 Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, Research project (co-PI)

2015-2019 Danish Council for Independent Research, YDUN research project (PI)




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