The general research theme of the Department Molecular Signal Processing is to understand how plants perceive, respond and adapt to environmental change at the molecular and systems level. This topic is of importance not only for basic plant research, but also in view of the world's challenge to guarantee future food security in the context of global climate change.
Plants are masters of resilience: once their seeds decide to sprout, they are destined to hold their ground and weather the elements, on occasion for centuries to come. Thus, as a consequence of their sessile lifestyle, plants deploy unique adaptive strategies for survival. They respond to local challenge or opportunity with directional growth for stress evasion or habitat exploration, and with the synthesis of an arsenal of bioactive chemicals for communication and self-defense. An array of hormones as well as signaling molecules and their interconnected networks govern plant development and adjust plant growth and metabolism to its circumstances. We are particularly interested in exploring how plants monitor and perceive external parameters, transmit and integrate information about their environment, and deploy appropriate metabolic and developmental responses to shifting abiotic conditions as well as co-evolving biotic stressors.
These ambitious goals are pursued by interactive research in four working and associated project groups. Major directions of research include three integrated program areas: (i) perception of environmental parameters such as mineral nutrient availability or moderate temperature changes; (ii) reprogramming of metabolism in response to biotic challenge; and (iii) signal integration during the perception of plant hormones and chemical mediators. The study of chemical plant-rhizosphere interactions is an additional area of interdepartmental research activities.