FUNCT Functional Plant Biology
Head of PA FUNCT: Prof Philip A. Wigge
Programme Area “Functional plant biology” (PA FUNCT) aims to obtain a mechanistic understanding of regulatory networks that enable plants to adapt to their environment. Environmental stresses are a major cause of crop losses, and these will be exacerbated by climate-change. To mitigate the vulnerability of horticulture to climate variation and associated environmental constraints we will need crop varieties, species or rootstocks with improved tolerance to stress conditions. In order to accelerate plant breeding, and the rational engineering of more resilient crop varieties, it is necessary to understand the molecular pathways underlying plant adaptation. Extensive variation in horticultural cultivars to environmental stresses also provides an invaluable resource to gain insight into the molecular pathways underpinning adaptation. In this way, our research has the potential to contribute to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along the agricultural production chain ranging from climate action (SDG13) over responsible production and consumption (SDG12) to life on land (SDG15).
We seek to contribute to IGZ’s mission by striving to conduct excellent fundamental research integrated with innovative applications in horticulture through interdisciplinary collaboration with other Programme Areas. We also aim to further develop the local scientific infrastructure pipelines and expertise for functional genomics applications such that these can benefit all groups within the institute.
There are three Research Groups within the PA: RG FUNCT.1 “Temperature sensing in plants”, RG FUNCT.2 “Plant metabolism”, and RG FUNCT.3 “Root-shoot interactions”. Each of the three contributes its individual strong research profile to the overall direction of the PA, there are overarching themes and unifying approaches to understand plant processes on a mechanistic level.
Plant adaptation is a broad area, and work in the department is focussed on three key aspects: (1) How do plants sense and integrate temperature information into their development? (2) What is the role of metabolism in responding to biotic and abiotic stress? (3) How is communication between the roots and shoots mediated? Work in the department is interdisciplinary, using a wide-range of approaches including induced genetic screens, natural variation, proteomics, gene expression analysis and bioinformatics. We have in-house next generation sequencing capability, which greatly facilitates genome-wide analysis of transcription factor binding and gene expression programmes. We welcome applications from graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are interested in joining the department.