Laboratory of Molecular and Ecological Physiology

Current projects:

  • Programmes supported by the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Project 0126-2015-0092 (2017–2019) «Ecological trends in the evolution of vascular plants». Project leader: Sergei N. Sheremetiev.

    The project focuses on uncovering the ecological trends in the evolution of angiosperms, gymnosperms and pteridophytes. Preliminary research showed that evolutionary dynamics of leaf structure and water use in angiosperms corresponds fairly well to recent models of global changes of climate and Earth hydrology during the Cenozoic. The taxonomic diversity of herbs and herbal biomes resulted from the instable paleoclimate which induced plant adaptive evolution. Two types of herbal biomes (С3 and С4) succeeded forest biomes, while the area of the latter dramatically dropped during Oligocene and Miocene both in high and low latitudes. This trend continues now in parallel with the climatic trend of increasing aridization and cooling-down of the continents. Furthermore, the evolutionary plasticity of genome size and plant functions are analyzed in taxa and biomorphs of angiosperms. The results show that genome sizes tended to increase during the Cretaceous and Cenozoic epochs, while the number of functions per 1 pg of genomic DNA changed from a maximum in trees and lianas of tropical forests in the Paleogene to a minimum in shrubs, perennials and annual herbs of Neogene steppes. The reason for an increase in genome size and a decrease in its functional effectivity might have been the climate changes (a decrease in temperature and humidity, and a drop of the concentration of СО2) which restricted plants functions. These trends are currently under study in gymnosperm and pteridophyte taxa.

    Photos, left to right: structure of the «Global Leaf Traits» data base; relative rates of diversification of genera of angiosperms for arid and moderately cold areas during Cretaceous and Cenozoic epochs.

  • Supported by Russian Science Foundation (RSF): Project #14-16-00120-P (2017–2018) «Changes in the minor antenna and in the PS2 reaction centres as a basis to rise photosynthetic activity and tolerance to light and drought stress in barley». Project leader: Olga V. Voitsekhovskaja.

    Chlorina mutants lack chlorophyll b. Their photosynthetic apparatus is highly effective: the rates of electron transfer within PSII, and also the rates of CO2 assimilation per chlorophyll molecule, are by 15-20 % higher in chlorina mutants than in wild-type plants. Potentially, crops with similar organization of the photosynthetic apparatus should be able to show an increase in yield and biomass production. However, until now, such mutants have never been considered as potential models for the generation of transgenic lines or cultivars with an economically significant increase in productivity. This is due to the side effects of chlorina mutations. Most importantly, the enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the photosynthetic apparatus of these mutants nullifies the potential benefits of higher efficiency of photosynthetic fixation. This projects aims at further investigations of the unique organization of photosynthetic apparatus of the high-yield phenotype of the barley chlorina f23613 (clo f23613) mutant which was characterized in project 14-16-00120.

    The work on this project will focus, first, on the successful tranfser of already available results to field experiments, and second, on the further study of the ways to manipulate plant photosynthetic productivity in barley. The planned investigations involve a spectrum of complex methods; part of these methods will be established in the framework of a collaboration with the Research Resource Centre for Molecular and Cell Technologies of Saint-Petersburg State University.

    Photos: barley (wild-type Donaria and chlorina f23613 lacking chlorophyll b). From left to right: general view; analysis of the lateral mobility of photosynthetic protein complexes and lipids in thylakoid membrans by Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP; Tyutereva et al. Photosynthesis Research 2017 133: 357–370); Redox state of P700 during successive excitement of PSII and PSI in leaves of Donaria.

  • Supported by Russian Science Foundation (RSF): Project #18-16-00074 (2018–2020) «Novel regulators of autophagy, growth and salt resistance in plants: can we use them to obtain salt-resistant barley varieties?». Project leader: Elena V. Tyutereva.

    In plants, activation of responses to any type of stress is accompanied by growth retardation and/or growth arrest, and, upon prolongation of stress, by changes in plant morphology. For crops, this usually has a negative impact on yield. Until very recently, the common view was that growth retardation/arrest during stress was related to the reallocation of plant resources — typically, in the form of photoassimilates — from biomass production and development of new organs to fueling detoxification and other stress-induced processes. However, recent studies show convincingly that growth arrest and activation of protective mechanisms in response to stress represent two separate genetic programs which, in spite of very close cooperation, can be completely uncoupled in mutants of the respective key regulators of these programs. Such Arabidopsis thaliana mutants display enhanced stress tolerance along with strong growth, comparable to or exceeding that of wild-type plants.

    This proposal is based on the results of studies performed within two projects supported by the RSF (№14-16-00120 and №15-14-30008). In these studies, we characterized a potent switch of catabolic vs. anabolic programs involving the root-specific, plasma-membrane located outward-rectifying potassium channel GORK which is highly likely to represent a sensor of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Arabidopsis gork1-1 mutants lacking this channel demonstrated improved viability under stress conditions due to a decrease in the induction of programmed cell death and of autophagy, and continued to grow under those conditions. The proposal aims at the investigation of the relationship between key regulatory events taking place during a range of stresses, including GORK-dependent loss of cytosolic potassium, induction of autophagy and PCD, using barley as a model system. The project includes generation of barley knockout mutants lacking the single copy GORK gene using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Within the proposal, we also investigate whether manipulation of the levels of autophagy can improve survival of green alga Haematococcus pluvialis, the main producent of astaxanthin, after induction of astaxanthin biosynthesis by salt stress.

    Photos, from left to right: a tobacco BY-2 suspension culture cell with peroxisomes labelled with eYFP (Tyutereva et al. Functional Plant Biol. 2018 45: 247–258); an Arabidopsis root tip, bright field; autophagosomes in root cells of Arabidopsis after stress treatment (confocal laser scanning microscopy, from left to right — fluorescence channel, bright field channel, overlay of images from both detectors of fluorescence and bright field).

  • Supported by Russian Foundation of Basic Research (RFBR), project#18-34-00821 (2018–2020) «Cross-talk between phytochrome signaling and the signals elicited from instable photosynthetic apparatus in Arabidopsis thaliana». Project leader: Valeriya A. Dmitrieva.

    Flowering is a critical stage of a plant’s ontogenesis. Control of flowering time is a subject of complex regulation at several levels of organization. In Arabidopsis thaliana chlorina (ch1) mutants unable to synthesize chlorophyll b due to a knock-out mutation in the chlorophyllide-a-oxygenase gene, as well as in barley chlorina f23613 mutants, transition to flowering is significantly delayed. The proposal aims at the characterization of the cross-talk between the signals elicited from the photosynthetic apparatus destabilized by the absence of chlorophyll b and the components of the system of flowering control using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model. The results will provide the first hints about the effects of the ch1 mutation on the flowering regulation system in Arabidopsis and will further our understanding of the mechanisms of flowering delay in chlorina mutants.

    Photos: Arabidopsis thaliana. From left to right: general view; shoot apex during transition to flowering; test of permeability of plasmodesmata in leaves using the DAnS (drop-and-see) method.

Current collaborative projects:

  • RFBR project #18-016-00220 (2018–2020). «Dynamics of expression of genes of phosphorus and carbon metabolism during establishment of effective arbuscular mycorrhiza between Medicago lupulina and Rhizophagus irregularis». Project leader: Andrei P. Yurkov (ARRIAM).

  • RFBR project #17-04-00837 (2017–2019). «Cellular and molecular mechanisms of the simplex shoot apical meristem functioning in lycophytes and gymnosperms». Project leader: Marina A. Romanova (Saint Petersburg State University).

Projects completed in the last five years: