Ute Armbruster; Molecular Photosynthesis
Our goal is to understand how photosynthesis responds and adapts to environmental changes. To this end, we combine molecular biology with spectroscopy and genetics.
The major challenge of ongoing climate change must be met with the sustainable, environmentally friendly production of healthy food, renewable energy and industrial raw materials.
One of the greatest challenges in the future, with the world’s population still increasing, is the sustainable, environmentally friendly production of food and feed that is adapted to the ongoing climate change.
Our research therefore aims at increasing plant productivity and food quality. To achieve this, one needs to understand what limits a plant's yield, particularly seed/grain yield, and how to optimize it. Moreover, plant food products need to have a high nutritional value for human health. The plants must also be more resilient to drought stress or diseases such as pathogen infestation.
To this end, researchers at HHU investigate flower/seed development and other aspects of plant development (Developmental Genetics, Plant Genetics), the transport of nutrients and nutritional content (Molecular Physiology, Cell and Interaction Biology, Botany), the defense mechanisms of plants against plant pathogens (Molecular Ecophysiology of Plants, Biochemical Plant Physiology, Microbiology) and observe the dynamic response of the plant to a changing environment (Plant Biochemistry).
Land plants represent the dominant biological carbon sequestration system on our planet, i.e. the massive removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and its deposit in plant biomass.
Hence, one focus of our research is to increase of photosynthetic productivity and its associated energy metabolism in plants. This is explored through plant physiological studies (Photosynthesis and stress physiology of plants, Developmental and molecular biology of plants), mechanistic elucidation of alternative photosynthetic pathways (Biochemical Plant Physiology, Plant Biochemistry), and carbon deposition in the fibrous part of the plant (Plant Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Biological Data Science).
The plant biomass itself can be used sustainably as a renewable resource to replace fossil fuels such as oil, coal and/ or natural gas. Applications include the production of biofuels and basic chemical products for industry.
Resource allocation within a plant and conversion of plant biomass into raw materials is mathematically modeled (Quantitative and Theoretical Biology, Computational Cell Biology) and experimentally validated by synthetic biology approaches by reconstructing metabolic pathways in photosynthetic bacterial (Synthetic Microbiology), yeast (Plant Cell Biology and Biotechnology) and animal cells (Synthetic Biology).
To secure their survival and successfully reproduce, plants interact with their biotic and abiotic environment in manifold ways. The fascinating strategies of plants to defend themselves against herbivores and pathogens, share resources in communities with symbionts and other plants or adjust to changing climatic conditions are being explored and the plant signaling response networks unraveled (Botany, Molecular Ecophysiology of Plants).
The gained knowledge is transferred from the laboratory to the field, e.g. by improving plant yields through genetics including barley (Plant Genetics, Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of Plants, Developmental Genetics), through intelligent breeding of corn (Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of Plants, Plant Cell Biology and Biotechnology) and through the use of natural selection in tomatoes (Population Genetics).
To accomplish this goal state-of-the-art technologies are utilized such as live cell imaging (CAi-Center for Advanced Imaging), in vivo metabolite measurements (Molecular Physiology), metabolome analysis using various chromatography and mass spectrometrical techniques (Plant Biochemistry), phenotyping (Botany, IBG-2: Plant Sciences), next-generation gene sequencing and quantitative gene expression analysis (Biological Data Science, Botany), and computer-aided analysis and modeling (Quantitative and Theoretical Biology).
This exciting and important research is part of the only German Cluster of Excellence for basic plant research in Germany (CEPLAS), a plant-specific graduate program with our US partners at Michigan State University (NextPlant), as well as various projects of the Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC).