Enabling Technologies & Collaborative Opportunities


Plant Productivity Set-Points Cluster- addressing mechanisms that limit protein and biomass accumulation 

Cluster Members and Contact Information

Plants have evolved mechanisms to efficiently regulate growth, development and responses to the environment that place biological constraints and thus maximize resource use to promote survival. Through domestication and breeding, new “set points” have been established for crop plants enhancing particular agronomic traits. As we develop new uses for plants as renewable resources for protein, biomaterials, and energy, there is renewed interest in developing strategies that address the molecular mechanisms mediating these internal “set-points” to facilitate high-level bioproduction.

Plant interactions with other organisms cluster 

Cluster Members and Contact Information

Plants have evolved complex chemical and genetic mechanisms that influence their interactions with other organisms, which can be harmful pests or beneficial  symbionts.  Plants also produce a vast array of phytochemicals that can be useful to humans and animals as pharmaceutical or nutritional compounds.  Experimental foci are on the roles that specialized secondary metabolites play in plant interactions with microbes, insects, or humans, and how small molecules might function in plants as signals to moderate defense pathways. 

Comparative Metabolomics, Genomics, and Metabolic Engineering Cluster 

Cluster Members and Contact Information

Metabolomics is the large-scale profiling of metabolites, the small-molecule component of cells representing the final products of interactions between gene expression, protein expression, and the cellular environment.  Metabolomics is integral to systems biology in providing the high-resolution biochemical phenotype of the cell, tissue, and organism, and as such it has become a vital tool for advancing our understanding of primary and secondary metabolism in plants.  Research within the Comparative Metabolomics, Genomics and Metabolic Engineering cluster will integrate:

  1. metabolic profiling of plants including chemical and biological annotation of plant metabolites and their spatial and temporal location and function;
  2. comparative genomics/transcriptomics for pathway delineation and gene discovery;
  3. bioinformatics including systems biology of biosynthetic networks and protein modeling; and
  4. RNAi/transgene expression technologies.  These cross-disciplinary approaches will help identify primary and secondary metabolites, specialized genes, enzymes, pathways, and regulatory networks to support metabolic engineering approaches for bioproduction of high-value compounds and their manipulation for useful applications in agriculture and medicine.