The IMBIO institute encompasses two departments headed by Prof. D. Bartels and Prof. P. Dörmann. Research of the IMBIO institute is focused on the molecular physiology and biotechnology of plants with the long term objective to understand plant growth and metabolic adaptations under changing environmental conditions.
Research in the department of Prof. Bartels is focused on the molecular and biochemical analysis of desiccation tolerance in higher plants. For this we study extreme desiccation tolerant resurrection plants and compare gene expression with the genetic model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the barley as crop plant. We try to reveal the biochemical function of stress proteins and we analyse the signal transduction starting with stress perception and leading to expression of genes and metabolic pathways with protective functions. Eventually this should lead to crop improvement under drought conditions.
Research in the department of Prof. Dörmann is focussed on the analysis of plant lipids. Galactolipids are enriched in chloroplasts which are essential for the conversion of light into chemical energy. We study the replacement of phospholipids with galactolipids, an adaptive mechanism to growth on phosphate limited soils, using Arabidopsis and Lotus as model plants. Plants undergo symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi to enhance phosphate supply, and with rhizobial bacteria to increase nitrogen assimilation. We study the role of lipids during the plant-microbe interaction. Furthermore, we analyze the biosynthesis and the function of the lipid antioxidant tocopherol (vitamin E) to evaluate the potential for increasing oxidative stress resistance and tocopherol content in crops. Oil crops represent an important resource for human nutrition, for the chemical industry and as biofuel. We study the role of genes of lipid synthesis and seed development for the increase of the oil content in crops.
The IMBIO institute provides established methods for the analysis of plant-environment interactions, in particular in the area of drought stress. Furthermore, a number of analytical tools are available such as the analysis of proteins (proteomics) and lipids (lipidomics). The main participation will be in the research area "Sustainable Plant Bioproduction and Resource Management". Our contributions are related to the improvement of the quality and quantity of plant biomass for human nutrition and for energy production (oil content, tocopherol content) under optimal and stress conditions (drought). Furthermore, the functionality of photosynthesis will be improved via the increase of the antioxidant tocopherol during stress conditions. The adaptive capability to drought will be evaluated by studying specific metabolic steps. We aim at the improvement of the uptake of phosphate and nitrogen into plants by studying mycorrhiza and rhizobial interactions. The phenotyping of plants will be done by analyzing drought markers (proteins, compatible solutes) and lipids via high-throughput methods.