Integration of amino acid and fatty acid metabolism during germination and seedling establishment

The project will be supervised by Tatjana Hildebrandt and Nadine Töpfer at the University of Cologne.


During germination and early seedling development plants rely on their seed storage compounds to provide them with energy and precursors for the synthesis of macromolecular structures. Carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins serve as major seed storage compounds in different species. In crop plants, the seed composition is highly relevant for breeding strategies aiming at optimizing both, the nutritional value of the seeds as well as their germination success. An efficient energy metabolism is prerequisite for fast and vigorous germination and subsequent resilience of the developing seedling to adverse environmental conditions. The integration of storage compound use during germination in the different seed types is still largely unknown. To tackle this question, in this project the candidate will analyze storage compound metabolism during germination and post-germinative seedling growth in the oilseed plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the protein crop Lupinus albus. Experimental data from proteomics and metabolomics approaches will be used to parameterize a time-resolved, large-scale metabolic model. C and N fluxes will be analyzed and the plasticity of storage compound metabolism in response to adverse environmental conditions will be evaluated. This approach will elucidate how the different metabolic processes are coordinated to meet the demands of the growing seedling. The gained knowledge will increase our understanding of metabolic adaptations required for using lipids or proteins as major seed storage compounds and will identify targets for breeding future crops with a beneficial seed composition.

Key publication: Henninger, Markus; Pedrotti, Lorenzo; Krischke, Markus; Draken, Jan; Wildenhain, Theresa; Fekete, Agnes et al. (2022): The evolutionarily conserved kinase SnRK1 orchestrates resource mobilization during Arabidopsis seedling establishment. In The Plant cell 34 (1), pp. 616–632. DOI: 10.1093/plcell/koab270.

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