The Department Molecular Signal Processing investigates at the biochemical to systems level how plants swiftly respond to fluctuating external conditions and optimally adapt to lasting environmental shift. This research theme is of not only high importance for fundamental and translational plant research but also of imminent societal relevance for crop improvement and future food security in the context of accelerating climate change.
Plants are masters of resilience and plasticity: once their seeds decide to sprout, they are destined to hold their ground and “weather the elements”, on occasion for centuries to come. Because of their restricted mobility, plants evolved unique adaptive strategies for survival. They respond to local challenge or opportunity with directional growth for stress evasion or habitat exploration. Furthermore, plants synthesize an arsenal of specialized and bioactive compounds for effective chemical communication, formidable self-defense, or enhanced mobilization of edaphic resources. An array of chemical mediators and their interconnected regulatory networks govern postembryonic plant development, fine-tune plant growth, and adjust metabolism as informed by local cues.
Our department is particularly interested in exploring how plants monitor and perceive external parameters, transmit and integrate information about their surroundings, and deploy appropriate metabolic and developmental responses to shifting abiotic conditions or co-evolving biotic stressors for optimal plant growth and survival. The departmental research theme, pursued by four working groups and associated project groups with a focus on select plant-environment interactions, supports the IPB mission with the emphasis on chemical mediators and molecular interactions. Major areas of inter-connected research activities comprise the perception of abiotic and biotic cues (e.g., mineral nutrient availabilities, wounding), the action and integration of chemical mediators (e.g., auxin, jasmonates, calcium), and the coordination of metabolic and cellular processes during adaptive plant development.