Hans-Henning Kunz

  • Nov 5, 2018
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Date & Location: November 5, 2018, at 4p; Room 1200 Molecular Plant Sciences Building

Talk focus: Ion transport in chloroplasts

About the Speaker

University: Washington State University

Research Interests OR Seminar Summary/Abstract: The conversion of light to chemical energy during photosynthesis is one of the most important biochemical pathways on the planet. In a world of climate change and limited fossil energy resources, alternative and sustainable technologies to harvest and store light energy are highly desirable. Artificial photosynthetic systems could significantly contribute to clean energy production. However, to design such devices, a detailed understanding of all components involved in natural photosynthesis is needed. A very detailed knowledge about the direct protein components of the photosynthetic machinery has been acquired over the last decades, but little is known about the importance of indirect components like the chloroplast ion homeostasis for photosynthesis.

The Kunz lab have shown recently that a disturbance of the plastidial ion homeostasis has dramatic consequences on photosynthetic efficiency in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Biomembranes that define the boundaries of cells and their organelles are impermeable for ions. Therefore, specific transport proteins facilitate ion exchange across membranes to maintain ion homeostasis in the organelles according to the physiological status of the plant cell. The ion homeostasis is sensitive towards abiotic stress, mostly in the form of salt stress. Excessive irrigation related to climate change and drought, has led to soil salinity becoming a growing global issue. Salt stress caused by NaCl accumulation in plant cells damages the chloroplast, leads to chlorophyll loss and poor photosynthesis rates.

The long-term goal of the research in the Kunz lab is a systemic understanding of the chloroplast ion homeostasis, the dynamics and how this feeds into photosynthesis and energy storage. Moreover, the lab is exploring how the chloroplast fights abiotic stress and which transporter genes and other genetic components are involved in this process. Identified genes from this research will be tested for their potential to increase photosynthetic efficiency under unfavorable environmental conditions. The lab employs different plant species, such as the dicot model organism Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa as a monocot and crop plant.