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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


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Benning Lab News

Recently discovered protein enhances understanding of photosynthesis Recently discovered protein enhances understanding of photosynthesis September 30, 2021

MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL) scientists have published a new study that furthers our understanding of how plants make membranes in chloroplasts, the photosynthesis powerhouse

Yang Xu wins 2021 Carl Douglas Prize Yang Xu wins 2021 Carl Douglas Prize June 10, 2021

The Prize recognizes postdoctoral researchers’, “outstanding contributions to plant biology, based on initiative and originality of the research, productivity, and leadership.” In addition, Dr. Xu, a member of the Benning lab, has accepted a tenure-track assistant professorship at the University of Guelph in Canada.

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