Research at the Institute

The focus of our work lies in the elucidation of the physiological functions of plant genes and proteins that play a role in nucleotide metabolism. For this purpose we combine methods of bioinformatics, biochemistry, genetics, plant physiology and cell biology in an integrative research approach.

The focus of our work lies in the elucidation of the physiological functions of plant genes and proteins that play a role in nucleotide metabolism. For this purpose we combine methods of bioinformatics, biochemistry, genetics, plant physiology and cell biology in an integrative research approach.

MOLECULAR NUTRITION AND BIOCHEMISTRY OF PLANTS

Significant advances have been made in the discovery of new genes in recent years. Today, entire genome sequences are known for many organisms - including many plants. The elucidation of the physiological functions of the proteins encoded by these genes is proceeding much more slowly. This represents a significant hurdle for a comprehensive understanding of organisms.

The focus of our work is on the elucidation of the physiological function of plant genes and proteins that play a role in the nucleotide and deoxynucleotide metabolism. For this purpose, we combine methods from bioinformatics, biochemistry, genetics, plant physiology and cell biology in an integrative research approach.

Our main areas of work are:

(1) Discovery of as yet unknown enzymes of nucleotide metabolism and characterization of their biochemical properties and physiological functions in the context of the plant

(2) Elucidation of the metabolic pathways of plant nucleotide metabolism including the transport processes within cells and across cell boundaries

(3) Regulation of nucleotide metabolism

  • Nucleotide Metabolism in a Nutshell

    Nucleotides serve a variety of functions. They are the building blocks for genetic information storage - for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) - but are also used for reading genetic information and translating it into proteins. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is intrinsically involved in these latter tasks.

    In addition, nucleotides have a central function in metabolism. For example, metabolic energy of cells is temporarily stored in a nucleotide: adenosine triphosphate (ATP). A large number of energetically unfavorable metabolic reactions are driven by coupling them to ATP turnover. Nucleotides are also components of important cofactors that are indispensable in metabolism, such as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) or coenzyme A.

    When reading the genetic information, ribonucleic acid (RNA) is permanently generated in plant metabolism. The RNA is extensively processed, parts of the RNA being cut out and broken down immediately after the synthesis. Even the fully processed RNA molecules sometimes only have a very short lifespan, thus ribonucleotides are constantly being released from RNA.

    To provide ribonucleotides, they can be newly synthesized (de novo) or they can be recycled (salvaged) when released from RNA. Plants can also completely break down nucleotides in order to recycle stored nutrients.

    The cellular metabolism must coordinate the de novo synthesis, the salvage metabolism, and the breakdown of the ribonucleotides in order to provide ribonucleotides in sufficient quantity at all times. This also applies to deoxyribonucleotides, which are always required in large quantities when the cell goes through a cell cycle, a process often associated with cell division. For DNA repair processes, deoxyribonucleotides must also be available at all times.