Metabolism and regulatory mechanisms in plants and phototrophic bacteria

Metabolism and regulatory mechanisms in plantsare one of the key focuses of the research activities in our group. We are trying to understand how the energy-generating cell organelles (plastids as well as mitochondria) are integrated into cellular response regulation of plants focusing on a group of dually targeted proteins. How certain genomic features of these organelles have evolved is studied using plants and algae with unique lifestyles.

Plastids are not only found in plants, but also in a group of non-photosynthetic organisms, that are notorious parasites in animals and humans. Examples are the malaria parasite Plasmodium ssp, as well as Toxoplasma gondii that cause toxoplasmosis. In our group we are interested in the identification of homologous transporters found in plants and these parasites, their evolutionary development and biochemical characterization.

Metabolism and regulatory mechanisms are also the main emphasis in our current research on the role of secondary metabolites, known as cyanotoxins, produced by phototrophic cyanobacteria. We are interested in which role cyanotoxins play in regulation of cell differentiation and cell-cell communication in multicellular nitrogen-fixing Nostoc spp. The studies are conducted on cyanotoxin producers both as free-living and as symbionts in plants. We believe that by pinpointing the purpose and cellular targets of these compounds will aid to preventing and combatting cyanotoxin pollution of water-bodies. Many of these molecules are also interesting for pharmaceutical applications.

Regarding secondary metabolites, in an on-going project the research furthermore focuses to characterize the regulatory processes involved in biosynthesis of anthocyanins in Vaccinium and Fragaria berries. The research also focuses on gene x environment interaction in biosynthesis of anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds in these berry producing plants.