Research IRTG 1525
The Dynamic Response of Plants to a Changing Environment
In contrast to most animals and microorganisms, plants are sessile organisms, and thus are not able to evade unfavorable environmental change by migration or flight. Instead, plants have evolved multiple complex mechanisms to cope with environmental change. These range from the production of dormant stages such as seeds, which enable plants to outlast adversarial growth conditions through the seed bank and distribution over long distances to explore new terrain, to rapid responses at the cellular level, such as the hypersensitive response to pathogen attack or production of antioxidants to cope with oxidative stress. In addition, due to allelic variation, many genetic traits show considerable plasticity in natural populations, thus defining a broad reaction norm (coping range) within which selection can operate to enable the fittest to survive. Consequently, the study of plant adaptation to changing environments is a broad field, ranging from population dynamics to cell biology. Within this broad context, the specific focus of iGRAD-Plant is on the dynamic molecular changes in response to environmental cues at the cellular and tissue levels, such as signal transduction pathways, metabolic and physiological responses, and biochemical adaptation. This focused approach is complemented by exploring the effects of allelic variation on specific cellular traits, such as the antioxidant defense system and by a comprehensive set of non-invasive and destructive phenotyping tools that have been developed and contributed by our partners at the Jülich Research Center (IBG-2: Plant Science) and at Michigan State University.