Head: Dr. Hans-Peter Mock
The Applied Biochemistry group aims at the identification of mechanisms regulating plant secondary metabolism. For these studies, a range of model and crop plants are used. Secondary metabolites significantly contribute to the interaction of plants with their environment, e.g. by acting as defence compounds. Plants synthesize a plethora of secondary compounds in response to stresses, and the accumulated substances can show anti-microbial properties, contribute to protection against UV light and act as antioxidants or signalling molecules. The role of secondary compounds as part of the human nutrition is another important aspect.
To identify regulatory factors which control the allocation of resources into different branches of secondary metabolism, the research group particularly uses proteome approaches and metabolite profiling. The functions of specific metabolites and proteins in the defence of abiotic or biotic stresses are investigated by using transgenic plants and mutants. As a model system, tobacco trichomes are studied using molecular and biochemical techniques and methods of cell biology; trichomes with glandular function able to secrete secondary compounds are of particular interest.
Furthermore, the cellular responses of plants upon cold stress are analysed by metabolite analysis and proteome approaches. Techniques for metabolite profiling are also used to characterize accessions from the IPK seed collection. In cooperation with external partners, the potential beneficial health effects of nutritional flavonoids are investigated.
The group has introduced techniques of proteome analysis as part of a functional genomics platform. The repertoire of methods comprises the separation of complex protein extracts by 2-D gel electrophoresis and LC-based techniques and the identification of relevant proteins by mass spectrometry using MALDI-TOF MS and ESI-Q-TOF MS/MS. In a range of projects, proteome approaches are used to characterize the protein complement of different plant tissues, including the seed proteome of barley and studies on the salt tolerance of barley accessions. An overall aim is to elucidate regulatory networks in plant stress defence on the protein level with particular emphasis on post-translational modifications, e.g. phosphorylation and on the composition and function of protein complexes in defence responses. Data analysis is performed in close collaboration with bio-informatics groups.