Plants have no legs or wings. Rather, they are attached to the surface, or rooted into the ground and cannot move to find a more suitable environment or run away from dangers. When plants colonized land for about 500 million years ago, they instead developed an outstanding capacity for the synthesis of complex molecules and biopolymers to use for protection against various threats, such as water loss or pathogen attacks. For instance, plants are synthesizing several very complex lipid based biopolymers, such as sporopollenin, cutin och suberin, that form waterproof protective layers on leaves, seeds, pollen, spores and in roots.
In my research I investigate the evolution and synthesis of the lipid-based polymers. For the investigations I mainly use the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha as the model system. Marchantia has many advantages as a model organism, such as its’ small size, it is easy to culture and genetically manipulate. Further, the Marchantia genome has been completely sequenced and comparisons between Marchantia and flowering plants opens up for an evolutionary perspective on plant development and physiology. There is also an active and expanding community of researchers using Marchantia in their laboratories, which allow for a rapid development of new techniques and tools.
In particular, I am interested to pinpoint the role of non-specific lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) in the synthesis of the lipid based biopolymers. The LTPs are abundant, secreted, soluble, cysteine-rich and small proteins with a molecular size usually below 10 kDa. LTPs are expressed in all investigated land plants, but have not been detected in any other organisms. The biological role of the LTPs remains rather obscure. However, there are data accumulating which suggest that these proteins are required for the deposition and function of wax and lipid-based polymers.
My research is conducted in collaboration with:
- Magnus Eklund (Uppsala University)
- Tiina Salminen (Åbo Akademi University)
- Daniel P. Matton (Université de Montreal)
- Valentin Joly (Université de Montreal)
- Jeroen Nieuwland (University of South Wales)
- Bingsong Zheng (Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University).
I am the main teacher and examinator for the following courses:
- Molecular Genetics (NBIC52)
- Genes and Gene Expression (NBIC47)
- Laboratory Techniques in Experimental Biosciences (8MEA06)
- and the B. Sc. projects in Biotechnology (TFBI24)
I am also active as a lecturer or supervisor in the courses:
- Botany: Systematics and Function of Plants
- Botany: Algae, Fungus and the Biology of Photosynthesis
- Cellbiology and Sustainable Development.