Research areas within Copenhagen Plant Science Centre
Research within Copenhagen Plant Science Centre (CPSC) will be based on the following areas in which University of Copenhagen already has strong research groups. These groups are situated in four departments at the Faculty of Science. Read more about the research areas below.
- Photosynthesis and mineral nutrition
- Plant cell walls
- Membrane transport
- Bioactive natural products
- Biological and environmental interactions
- Evolutionary and functional genomics
Current research areas within plant science at the University of Copenhagen. An objective of Copenhagen Plant Science Centre is to increase and stimulate synergy between the research groups.
A Head of Centre will be appointed. Synergy with other research areas will also be a goal for Copenhagen Plant Science Centre. Furthermore, integration of new junior group leaders and establishment of infrastructure will increase interdisciplinary research and collaboration.
Photosynthesis and mineral nutrition
Primary plant productivity will focus on photosynthesis and mineral nutrition. The research will address light capture and conversion, nutrient acquisition and the functional properties of mineral elements directed towards energy generation, and how they can be exploited to produce biomass and chemical building blocks. This will also improve our understanding of the molecular basis for the interactions between plants and their environment affecting plant growth, and resource use efficiency.
This research area is relevant to reduce negative effects associated to climate change and food security including elevated carbon dioxide and extreme climatic events (drought, temperature and adverse soil conditions). A clear objective is to provide new crop and tree species and cultivars with improved stress tolerance, and more efficient use of nutrients and water and to avoid the build-up of toxic plant constituents.
Plant cell walls
Plant cell walls are a defining feature of plants and represent a diverse and valuable bio resource of complex polymers. Plant cell wall research will combine understanding of the chemical structures and biological roles of highly complex and diverse cell wall components with exploiting the industrial use of cell wall components for fibres, bio-fuels and as starting materials for generation of chemical building blocks to replace those obtained from the petrochemical industries.
An important part of the effort will be to define and exploit glycan diversity and evolution in the plant kingdom. This research will address improved plant quality and biomass production for food, feed, energy and biomaterials, and provides the basis for biotechnology and breeding for improved plant composition in terms of saccharification, content and bio-availability of minerals and other beneficial food constituents. This area is important for translating basic results from CPSC into value and use for biotech- and biorefinery industries.
Membrane transport and cell compartmentalization are fundamental to processes such as primary and secondary metabolism, nutrient acquisition, waste household and signal transduction. Communication within the plant, between plants and between plants and other organisms and their environment take place across biological membranes.
Major research topics are the structure and function of membrane pumps that catalyze short-distance transmembrane transport of ions or organic molecules against thermodynamic gradients, and mechanisms of long-distance transport of signals and solutes facilitated by plasmodesmata. This knowledge facilitates the generation of plants with increased tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses and for targeted solutions to environmental problems such as phytoremediation.
Bioactive natural products
Plants are master chemists and produce an enormous variety of compounds. Among these are the bioactive natural products serving as herbivore and pest deterrents, pollinator attractants, UV light protectants, metabolic buffers and sinks balancing primary metabolism, and enabling plants to communicate with their environment. Many of these compounds are also used as drugs, spices, flavours, fragrances, dyes and nutraceuticals.
Plants normally produce only small amounts of desirable bioactive compounds. Research on bioactive natural products aims to elucidate and optimize their functions within the plant, and to provide detailed knowledge of the evolution and regulation of their synthesis. Using the approaches of synthetic biology, modules identified will be combined in new ways to create biobased production systems of structurally complex chemical compounds e.g. for use as drugs.
Biological and environmental interactions
Biological and environmental interactions in crop and plant communities address plants' abilities to resist pests, to utilize other organisms such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria, mychorrizae, natural enemies of their pests, and to interact, both positively and negatively with other plants. Focus will be on the mechanisms of interactions with the environmental factors (soil and climate) and biological factors such as microbes, insects, fungi and neighbouring plants. This topic integrates many aspects of the other five areas. Research will focus on allocation of resources to different plant functions, including defence, competition and yield production. Other focal areas will be host susceptibility or resistance and signalling to induce defence mechanisms against weeds, pests and diseases.
Evolutionary and functional genomics
Understanding how plants perceive and transduce signals, how their gene expression is regulated in space and time, and how their innate immune system provides resistance to pathogens are goals of functional and evolutionary genomics. Plant and human models will be used to identify novel immune components. Gene regulation by non-coding RNAs will also be addressed in studies of small RNA guided gene regulation and their roles in stress adaptation and plant-pathogen interactions. Establishing the National Sequencing Centre and BGI Europe at University of Copenhagen will provide sequencing power to take plant evolutionary and developmental biology to the next level. To this end, genome and RNA sequencing projects will study evolvability and the contribution of non-coding RNAs to this fundamental property of biological systems.