Biochemistry and physiology of plant-soil interaction (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Zeno Varanini
Zeno Varanini
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I semestre dal Oct 1, 2018 al Jan 31, 2019.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

Aim of the course is to introduce the students to the knowledge of the different plant responses to modifications in soil conditions with particular emphasis on plant nutrition. After a first introduction on the structural/functional characteristics of soil environment the effects of nutrient fluctuations, the presence of natural and anthropic (e.g. biostimulants) organic molecules and microorganisms will be described. All these themes will be approached at molecular, biochemical and physiological levels. We intend to give an integrated view of the dynamics taking place at the rhizosphere involving roots cellular activities and associated metabolic modifications.


-The main global problems of agriculture and the related subjects of scientific research.
- Problems and importance of soil in the environmental and productive context.
- Soil formation and horizons (notes).
-The rhizosphere.
-Soil constituents.
-Rocks (notes).
-Structure and properties of soil minerals.
-Structure and properties of clays.
-Other soil minerals (notes).
-Analyses of particle size and soil texture.
-Soil organic matter: constituents and their chemical properties.
-The functions of soil organic matter.
-Biological effects of humic substances.
-The carbon cycle in the soil and transformation process of organic matter.
-The origin of charges on the surface of solid components.
-Cation and anion exchange capacity.
-Soil pH.
-The soil solution and the concept of nutrient availability
-Movement of nutrient in the soil.
- Membrane transport proteins at the root plasma membrane: structure and functions
-N forms in soil.
-Nitrate and ammonium uptake systems and the role of PM H+-ATPase
-Molecular aspects of nitrate uptake: NRT1, NRT2, NAR e AMT1 genes.
-P forms in soil. Plants responses to P stress. Pht genes.
-Lupin as model plant for the study of P stress.
-S forms in soil. Molecular physiology of sulphate uptake. Sultr genes.
-K forms in soil. Molecular physiology of K+ uptake: AKT e HAK genes.
-Mg and Ca in soil. Biochemical roles of Mg and Ca and molecular physiology of their uptake.
-Fe in soil: reactions and forms. The problem of calcareous soils. Physiological plant responses to Fe stress: strategy I and II. The role of IRT, FRO, H+-ATPase, YS1 and TOM genes.
-Fe and soil humic substances: complexing and interfering actions on acquisition mechanisms.
-Molecular aspects of B, Zn, Mn e Cu uptake systems (notes).

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam consists in an oral colloquium both for attending and not-attending students.
The exam is aimed at evaluating the student's knowledge of the whole program of the course paying attention to the depth of acquired knowledge and the ability to systematically connect topics. The mark will be expressed in 30-point scale.