The plant physiology groups of Central Germany met for the 21st time at the end of June. The meeting facilitates the exchange between the individual groups and more importantly serves as an opportunity for early career scientists to present their research to a larger audience. The location of the meeting alternates between the Universities in Jena, Halle, Dresden and Leipzig.
Range of organisms and research disciplines
This year’s meeting was attended by 56 researchers, ranging from bachelor student to professor, who listened to 16 presentations. The topics traversed most topics in plant physiology, ranging from fundamental research to applied biotechnology and from unicellular cyanobacteria and microalgae to vascular plants. Additionally, some presentations also addressed the interaction of photosynthetic organisms and associated microorganisms. The individual sessions reflected this diversity, making for a varied program. Remarkably, all speakers stayed on time, allowing multiple questions for each presentation, which were continued in smaller groups in the breaks between sessions.
Basic research topics
Fundamental research in plants and microalgae covered most presentations. Ming Zhou from the Klösgen group in Halle reported novel findings about the protein import into the thylakoid lumen by the Tat system. Two presentations by Ivana Mladenovic and Elena Roitsch, both from the Humbeck group (Halle), illustrated the importance of Whirly proteins and their influence on abscisic acid induced gene expression or the source sink dynamics in lotus plants. Helene Röhricht from the Kühn group (Halle) studied the importance of the mitochondrial supercomplex for cellular respiration. Chaima Guizani from the Schattat group (Halle) explored the function of stromules, filamentous structures that connect chloroplasts and the nucleus, and their importance for retrograde signaling. For higher plants flowering and seed production are essential for survival of a species, Wolfram Brenner from the Krajinski group (Leipzig), investigated the role of ZAUDERER proteins for both processes in Arabidopsis thaliana. Equally important for any organism is to maintain its circadian rhythm. Anxhela Rredhi from the Mittag group (Jena) investigates a DASH type cryptochrome in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and its regulatory function for cellular metabolism.
Interaction with the environment
Another important topic of the meeting were abiotic stress factors and mechanisms plants use to deal with them. Willy Petzold from the Ludwig-Müller group (Dresden) presented how plants react to heat stress and drought in a natural habitat. At the opposite end of the spectrum is flooding, which is equally stressful for a plant, as it induces hypoxic conditions. Vajiheh Safavi-Rizi from the Krajinski und Sasso groups (Leipzig) investigated the influence of nitric oxid and ARC proteins during hypoxia. At the same time plants have to deal with highly reactive oxygen species, either produced during photosynthesis or because of abiotic stress factors. Yuliia Lihanova from Sasso’s group showed that C. reinhardtii is using ovothiol A against reactive oxygen species.
Alexandra Furch from Jena illustrated the elemental role of the phloem for pathogen defense in higher plants and the second talk by Jan Klein from her group was exploring the connection between steroid biosynthesis and resistance to pathogenic fungi. Raimund Nagel from the Sasso group showed that gibberellins are not only produced by plants and fungi, but also by beneficial and pathogenic bacteria. However, antagonistic bacteria not only affect vascular plants as Yu Hou from the Mittag group illustrated for the interaction between C. reinhardtii and the bacterium Pseudomonas protegens that inhibits algal growth and induces deflagellation.
Applied research topics
While presentations to applied topics were in the minority, they provoked some of the most interesting and productive discussions. Alexandra Schirmacher from the Zedler group (Jena) showed that fusing enzymes with scaffolding proteins increases ethanol production in Synechococcus elongatus. Emeka Nwoba from the Wilhelm group (Leipzig) optimizes glycolate production in C. reinhardtii, through identification of limiting metabolic steps by transcriptomic and metabolomic studies.
As already mentioned, this meeting allows young scientists to sharpen their presentation skills, while also exposing them to a varied range of topics as well as novel perspectives and methods that could be used for their own research topic. And in the end the personal discussions in the breaks or at the well-organized conference dinner are a means to develop novel ideas and, especially for younger scientists, make personal contacts that can be vital for their further career. The next meeting is planned to take place in 2024 in Jena.
In August 2023
Dr. Raimund Nagel & Dr. Torsten Jakob from Prof. Dr. Severin Sasso’s team at Leipzig University