Plant Physiology and Biochemistry (2008/2009)

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Teaching is organised as follows:
Unit Credits Academic sector Period Academic staff
Fisiologia vegetale (laboratorio) 1 BIO/04-PLANT PHYSIOLOGY 2° Sem Roberto Bassi
Biochimica vegetale 4 BIO/04-PLANT PHYSIOLOGY 2° Sem Luca Dall'Osto
Fisiologia vegetale 4 BIO/04-PLANT PHYSIOLOGY 2° Sem Roberto Bassi

Learning outcomes

Module: Fisiologia vegetale
This subject is aimed to provide an integrative vision of the plant function as resulting from the co-adaptation between the different biochemical and cellular functions that are differentially expressed in the different organs and tissues. The major differences between autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms and the adaptation needed in order to cope with an environment where energy from light is available in a very diluted form. The student will have to consider the effect of the biochemical and physiological integration and identify the limiting factors for the plant productivity. Importance will be given to the methods for the study of plant physiology with special reference to genetic and biophysics. The practical work will be specifically aimed to clarify the methodological aspects of functional genetic.

Keywords: autotrophy, biophysics, physiology, structure-function integration.

Module: Fisiologia vegetale (laboratorio)

Module: Biochimica vegetale
The Plant Biochemistry course is proposed to give an integrated view of some fundamental aspects of the primary metabolism of the plants, as well as the mutual integration and infuence of the various metabolic ways. The aim of the course is to define some main metabolic ways and to supply the bases for the methodologies of metabolic analyses by way of biochemical, genetic and biophysical methods. The study of the theoretical bases will be integrated by the illustration of biotechnological applications of metabolic engineering, by widening the biochemical and biophysical methods for selection of mutants.


Module: Fisiologia vegetale

1Introduction: what’s plant physiology and interaction with others disciplines. Methods of study. Implications and adaptations typical of autothophy and eterothrophy. Cytoplasm/mass ration in plants and animals.

Major difference between animal and plant cell.

Water. Osmosys, mass flow, water potential. Root absorption, Xilem: structure and function. Water flow in the xylem. "Cohesion tension theory". Cavitation and recovery. Origino f the absorption strength. Leaf, stomata and traspiration.

Structure and function of the biological membranes: ion transport, Energy dependent pransport, Nerst equativo, mechanismsms of solute transport.

Phisiology of mineral absorption, macro- and micro-nutrients. essential elements.

Pholem: structure and function. Pressure-flow hypothesis. loading , unloading and mass flow..

Cellulose biosynthesis and formation of cell wall. Extensibility, acid growth, expansins, polar growth. Role of Ca2+.

Cell cycle and growth: seed development, dormance and germination. Synthesis/degradation of recserves.

Perception and transmission of signals.

Plant Hormons Auxins, Abscissic acid (ABA), gibberellins, brassinosteroid, ethylene, cytokinins.

Phytochrome: photoactive proteins, light as information, photoperiodism.

Cryptochrome: blue and UVA response. Regulation of stomata opening. phototropism.

Practical course:

- Model systems for physiological genetic: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Physcomitrella patens, Arabidopsis thaliana, Hordeum vulgare. Homologous and heterologous recombinationa Aploidy e diploidy. Autotrophy and mixotrophy. +/- of the different systems.
Insertional and chimica mutagenesys

Phenotypic selection.

Physiological characterization of mutants: biophysical methods: fluorescence.

Biochemical characterization of mutants: immunoblotting against candidate gene products.

Module: Fisiologia vegetale (laboratorio)

Module: Biochimica vegetale
Program of the course
1. Plastids: structure and functional specialization. Chloroplasts, biosynthesis of chlorophylls and carotenoids, biosynthesis of lipids, structure of the plastidial genome and gene expression, import of proteins.
2. Photosynthesis: light absorption, fate of the excited states, role of chlorophylls and carotenoids, the antenna system of higher plants, kinetics of energy transfer between chromophores.
3. Photosynthesis: the reaction centers, electron transfer through the thylakoid membrane, PSII and PSI, cycle Q, water oxidation, synthesis of ATP, lateral heterogeneity and state transitions, photoxidative stress, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as source of bio-hydrogen.
4. Photosynthesis: using chlorophyll fluorescence to study the photosynthetic mechanisms (damages to the photosynthetic apparatus, Non-Photochemical Quenching (NPQ), state transitions …) or to facilitate the screening of a population of mutants.
5. Photosynthesis: CO2 organication in C3, C4 and CAM plants, the photorespiratory pathway.
6. Nitrogen metabolism: endosymbiotic fixation of N2, structure and function of the radical nodules, absorption and reduction of nitrate, reduction of nitrite.
7. Sulfur metabolism: chemistry of sulfur, absorption, transport and assimilation of the sulfate, role of the glutathione, phytochelatins.
8. Regulation and interconnection of metabolic pathways: carbohydrates metabolism, synthesis and degradation of starch and sucrose, interactions between hexoses phospate pool and pentoses phosphate pool, regulation of carbon assimilation, metabolism control between cytosol and chloroplast, gluconeogenesis.
9. Aminoacids biosynthesis: assimilation of inorganic nitrogen, synthesis of aromatic aa, synthesis of sulfur-containing aa, general view on biosynthesis of aspartate-derived aa, branched chain aa, proline, hystidine, arginine, interactions between nitrate assimilation and carbon metabolism, role of mitochondria in supporting the aa biosynthetic pathways into the plastid.
10. Mitochondria of higher plants.
11. Secondary metabolism: activation of the secondary metabolism and role of reactive oxygen specie (ROS), biosynthesis of IPP (chloroplastic and cytosolic pathways), biosynthesis of terpenoids, structure and function of alkaloids, phenylpropanoids, lignins, flavonoids, coumarins, cyanogenic glycosides.

Assessment methods and criteria

Module: Fisiologia vegetale


c) Multiple choice questions. This part is propedeutical to the oral examination. Student that do not like to undergo oral examination may reach the maximum score of 24/30 by this way. A report (personal) on practical work is requie and will be discussed.

d) Oral. Discussion with teacher on the major subjects considered in the program. It is possible to chose a subject and prepare a powerpoint presentation on it.

Module: Fisiologia vegetale (laboratorio)

Module: Biochimica vegetale
The examination is composed by two parts:
a) Written examination. In 60 min it will come tested the ability of the student to describe the main metabolic ways with the molecular structures of intermediates involved, including enzymes and co-factors that catalyze each molecular step.
b) Oral examination. The student will discuss the arguments explained along the course, having tried to demonstrate critical spirit and knowledge of the basis of the subjects.