70% of the earth's carbon in living biomass exists in land plants, most of it in the form of polysaccharide and phenolic biopolymers in the trunks, stems and roots of vascular plants. For the plant this means coordinating how to get carbon from the air and hydrogen and oxygen from water via the roots, to synthesize sugars in the leaves – the currency that the plant can invest. In each of billions of individual plant cells, tens of thousands of proteins work together to metabolize thousands of molecules to use these sequestered sugars and build stable cell walls, keeping open channels for communication and transport throughout the plant. Underground – in addition to getting water, the roots work to obtain crucial nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, via transporters, specialized structures and enzymes, and through symbiotic partnerships with a wide variety of micro-organisms.
In the African Plant Systems biology for the Bioeconomy programme (APSB) we use systems biology, evo-devo approaches, genome engineering and synthetic biology to study important traits in African plants of ecological and economic importance. This includes how plants acquire, manage and invest sequestered carbon to adapt to low-nutrient environments, and create superior plant biomass.
- Xylem development and evolution
- Nitrogen and phosphorus acquisition in the plant tree of life
- Evolvability in real and simulated phenotypic landscapes
Contact: Prof. Eshchar Mizrachi
Telephone: +27 12 420 2136