Central Nucleotide Metabolism

Prof. Dr. Witte

The generation of nucleotides

Nucleotides are required as building blocks for nucleic acids and for a large number of cellular metabolites. Nucleotides can be newly synthesized from simple precursors (de novo synthesis) or recycled (salvage) during the breakdown of nucleic acids and nucleotide-containing metabolites. Although these metabolic pathways are known in principle, there are still many unanswered questions, particularly in plants.

Nucleotide degradation

Although proteins represent the largest reserve of nitrogen, nucleic acids (especially RNA) also serve as nitrogen, phosphate and carbon storage. Plants can catabolize RNA to release stored nutrients.

The comprehensive elucidation of the degradation pathway for the purine nucleotides is a classic focus of our work group. The purine bases adenine and guanine each contain five nitrogen atoms, which are released as ammonium in the course of the ring catabolism and can be reassimilated by the plant for the synthesis of new biomolecules.

Nucleic acids also contain a number of modified nucleotides, e.g. N6-methyl-adenosine. How these are catabolized is also one of our research topics.    


Transport processes of metabolites related to nucleotide metabolism within cells, e.g. between different cell compartments, but also over longer distances through tissue or between different plant organs are increasingly in the focus of our research activities.


How the de novo synthesis, recycling and degradation of nucleotides are coordinated is an important question which has not been deeply investigated so far. One of our goals is to better understand the regulation of nucleotide metabolism and also to discover metabolites derived from nucleotide metabolism that participate in cellular regulation.