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Christoph Benning

Director, MSU Foundation Professor, University Distinguished Professor

Departments: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology - Plant Biology

Research: Lipid Metabolism in Photosynthetic Organisms

Research in the Benning laboratory focuses on lipid metabolism in photosynthetic organisms. One area of particular interest is the assembly and maintenance of the photosynthetic membrane in plants and algae. The photosynthetic membrane contains a unique set of polar lipids. Their specific functions in photosynthesis, especially during dynamic conditions and under stress, are investigated by applying state-of-the-art phenotyping to Arabidopsis and Chlamydomonas lipid mutants.

Plants in different stages
Different transgenic Arabidopsis lines with altered lipid metabolism
By Kenny Wang

Different membranes cooperate in the synthesis of lipid precursors needed for the assembly of the photosynthetic membrane. Thus, lipid biosynthetic enzymes and lipid transport mechanisms involving chloroplast envelope membranes are investigated in the model plant Arabidopsis using biochemical, cell biological, and molecular genetic approaches.

Dividing cells of the microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
By Tommy Takeuchi

Photosynthetic organisms are exposed to a changing environment which can lead to stress inhibiting growth. Lipid remodeling in response to adverse temperatures or nutrient deprivation is an area of study in the Benning lab. Nutrient-deprived algae enter a state of cellular quiescence. Cell divisions cease and metabolism is redirected to accumulate storage lipids. The Benning laboratory is identifying factors governing cell division in response to the metabolic state of cells in single-celled algae. Approaches ranging from biochemistry, genetics, and systems biology to modeling are used to gain insights into this process with the goal to optimize algae for biofuel production.


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  • Ph.D. 1991, Michigan State University
  • M.S. 1986, Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet, Freiburg, Germany


ASPB Legacy Society Founding Member Interview

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Benning Lab News

[LINK] Two PRL faculty named 2020 Highly Cited Researchers [LINK] Two PRL faculty named 2020 Highly Cited Researchers December 16, 2020

Christoph Benning and Gregg Howe are two of the four MSU College of Natural Science (CNS) researchers named Highly Cited Researchers, an annual compilation of the global leaders in scientific influence by Clarivate Analytics. The linked article features both scientists.

Understanding how algal cells divide when they are hungry Understanding how algal cells divide when they are hungry October 8, 2020

A new study delves into how algae manage cell division processes when they suffer from starvation. The finding has implications for biofuel technologies, given that algae have the potential to become a sustainable source of high value oils.

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