Molecular Plant Physiology Lab
In the Molecular Plant Physiology lab we use genetics and molecular biology to study how plants perceive and respond to signals of stress they receive from the environment. We want to know, how the number of stomata in a leaf is determined in development and whether and how this is linked to stomatal opening or closure in response to changes in environmental conditions. As stomatal pores in leaves are the gate of entry for carbon dioxide used in photosynthesis, but also serve as the exit door for water, stomatal numbers and responsiveness are key determinants of plant survival and yield. Our major research goal is to discover trait combinations of stomatal density and responsiveness that enable to increase plant water use efficiency (and thus resistance to drought) without major negative impacts on photosynthesis and yield.
Another research direction in the lab is systemic signalling in plants. Different parts of a plant do not act completely independently of each other: processes in one leaf can affect the behaviour of distant plant tissues. We mainly study systemic signals that regulate stomatal development and plant stress responses.
We use Arabidopsis (thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana) as a model plant for our research but also work with cereals and early vascular plants, such as ferns.
Stomata and epidermal cells in the bottom cell layer of an Arabidopsis leaf. Photo: Hanna Hõrak
Arabidopsis leaves marked for a systemic signalling experiment.
Photo: Kaspar Koolmeister
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Full list of publications is here.
Hanna Hõrak (hanna.horak [ät] ut.ee)
Ingmar Tulva (Research Fellow, ingmar.tulva [ät] ut.ee)
Possible topics for student thesis:
The topic be specified together with the student to take into account their interests and wishes. Here is a list of general topics:
• Effects of simultaneously modified stomatal numbers and aperture on plant water use efficiency and photosynthesis.
• Effects of simultaneous manipulation of stomatal parameters and photosynthesis on plant water use efficiency and yield.
• Systemic effects of phytohormones on stomatal development.
• The role of kinases and phosphatases preferentially expressed in guard cells in the regulation of stomatal development and aperture.
Hanna Hõrak, Associate Professor and group leader
hanna.horak [ät] ut.ee