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The Department of Plant Physiology started its work at Umeå University in 1967. It is now part of the Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC), a world leading plant research institute. UPSC celebrates the 50 years anniversary with a three-day lasting symposium about the past, the present and the future of Plant Science in Umeå (and the world). The Symposium will take place on August 21-23 at the UPSC in Umeå.

The research at UPSC today is fundamentally different from the science of 1967. UPSC comprises not only the Department of Plant Physiology but also the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), founded in the late 1970s. These two Departments joined their forces in 1999 and created the Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC), first “virtually”, and in 2001 also physically.

Today, over 200 persons from about 45 different nationalities work at the UPSC - in contrast to the handful of people that started in August 1967. How has this tremendous development been possible, where is plant science today and what is its importance for the society and the citizens of Sweden? These are questions that will be discussed during the anniversary symposium.

The first day of the symposium will focus on the history of plant science in Umeå. On the second day, current group leaders from the UPSC will present their research and the third day concentrates on future perspectives of Plant Science. The invited speakers are famous plant scientist from all over the world, who influenced the development of Plant Science in Umeå. They are all honorary doctors either at Umeå University or at SLU.

The history of Plant Science in Umeå is now also summarized in a booklet (in English) that will be printed for the Symposium. This booklet is based on a more detailed book with the title “Från King Alfred till grangenomet: 50 år av växtforskning i Umeå” (in Swedish) that will be published presumably in autumn 2017.

More about the symposium:

Event: Plant Science 50years in Umeå Symposium
Date: 21-23 of August
Place: Umeå Plant Science Centre, Umeå University Campus, Umeå

Program for the 50 years Plant Science in Umeå Symposium 2017

    Preliminary program
    Location:  Stora hörsalen, KBC, Umeå

    Day 1: Monday, 21 August 2017
    Plant Science in Umeå (and the world) in the past

    Chair: Stefan Jansson
    13.00 - 13:10 Opening of the Symposium
    Hans Adolfsson, Vice chancellor, Umeå University and Mikael Elofsson, Dean of the faculty of science and technology
    13.10 - 13.30 Introduction - Plant Science in Umeå 50 years
    Stefan Jansson, Prefect at the Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University
    13.30 - 14.00 My 50 years in Plant Physiology
    Gunnar Öquist, Professor emeritus, Umeå University
    14.00 - 14.15 How did it go? Some reflections 50 years later
    Lars Ericson, Professor emeritus, Umeå University
    14.15 - 14.45 Genphys 1978-1999
    Jan-Erik Hällgren, Professor emeritus, SLU
    14.45 - 15.30 Coffee break
    15.30 - 16.00 The early era of transgenic plants in Umeå: hairy, shooty, shiny, bonsai and with a touch of fish
    Olof Olsson, Lund University
    16.00 - 16.30 Biochemists invading Plantphys under the polar night
    Bertil Andersson, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Honorary doctor at Umeå University
    16.30 - 17.00 UPSC 1999-2017
    Ove Nilsson, Director of UPSC, SLU
    17.00 Guided tour through UPSC
    19.00 Dinner/Barbecue (KBC cafeteria)
      "Botanist pub" and music (UPSC coffee room)

    Day 2: Tuesday, 22 August 2017
    Plant Science in Umeå (and the world) today

    Session 1: Plant Growth and Development 
    Chair: Thomas Moritz
    9.00 - 9.25 The roots of vegetative propagation
    Catherine Bellini, Umeå University 
    9.25 - 9.50 Integration of flowering time signals in Arabidopsis thaliana
    Markus Schmid, Umeå University
    9.50 - 10.15 The transcriptome of wood formation
    Torgeir Hvidsten, Umeå University/Norwegian University of Life Sciences Ås
    10.15 - 10.45 Coffee break
    10.45 - 11.10 Populus FT-like genes - from flowering to tree phenology
    Ove Nilsson, SLU
    11.10 - 11.35 Root invasion by ectomycorrhizal fungi during symbiosis formation – cell wall remodelling under the influence of auxin?
    Judith Felten, SLU
    11.35 - 12.00 Carbon for wood cell walls
    Totte Niittylä, SLU
    12.00 - 13.30 Lunch
    Session 2: Plant Responses to Environmental Changes
    Chair: Per Gardeström
    13.30 - 13.55 Studies of biological stress at UPSC
    Benedicte Albrectsen, Umeå University
    13.55 - 14.20 Deciphering the metabolic regulations associated with leaf senescence
    Olivier Keech, Umeå University
    14.20 - 14.45 Light response, a tale of two genomes
    Åsa Strand, Umeå University
    14.45 - 15.15 Coffee break
    15.15 - 15.40 Genetic architecture of gene expression variation in Swedish aspen
    Nathanial Street, Umeå University
    15.40 - 16.05 Local adaptation in conifers
    Rosario Garcia Gil, SLU
    16.05 - 16.30 Translational dynamics in Arabidopsis
    Johannes Hanson, Umeå University
    19.00 Dinner and 50th anniversary party (Universum)

    Day 3: Wednesday, 23 August 2017
    Plant Science in Umeå (and the world) in the future

    Chair: Karin Ljung
    9.00 - 9.30 Plant Science - The next 50 years?
    Ottoline Leyser, Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Honorary doctor at SLU
    9.30 - 10.00 Challenges for photosynthesis research
    Eva-Mari Aro, Turku University, Honorary doctor at Umeå University
    10.00 - 10.30 Coffee break
    10.30 - 11.00 Budgeting for a fluctuating future - Learning from the predictable and living with the unpredictable.
    Mark Stitt, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Golm-Potsdam, Honorary doctor at Umeå University
     11.00 - 11.30 Ex-temporary research
    Birger Lindberg Møller, Copenhagen University, Honorary doctor at Umeå University
    11.30 - 12.00 The future for basic science in Sweden and Umeå
    Göran Sandberg, Executive director, KAW
     12.00 - 12.30 Concluding words and closing of the symposium
    Peter Högberg, Vice chancellor SLU, Göran Ståhl, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry
     12.30 - 14.00  Lunch

    Practical information

      Symposium Venue

      The conference will take place in the Large Lecture Room ("Stora hörsalen", KB.E3.03) at the Chemical Biological Centre (KBC) on the Campus of Umeå University.

      Travel and Arrival

      Umeå is easily accessible via plane, railway, bus, car, and even by ferry.

      By Plane
      It takes around one hour to fly from Stockholm to Umeå. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norwegian Air Shuttle operate several daily flights to and from Stockholm Arlanda International Airport. BRA also offers frequent flight service via Stockholm Bromma Airport.
      SAS may offer limited direct connections from Gothenburg and Helsinki, and Nordic Airways from Luleå, Kiruna and Östersund.
      From Umeå Airport it is only a 10-minute drive to the city centre. Taxis are available for quick access to your desired destination in Umeå and can be pre-booked with no extra charge. The price to take a taxi to the city centre is about 280 SEK.
      The Airport Shuttle (No. 80, "Flygbuss" in Swedish), offers regular bus service from Umeå Airport to the city centre and passes by the university campus as well. A one-way ticket costs 65 SEK.

      Please Note: cash is no longer accepted on any of the local buses, including the Airport Shuttle! Major credit and debit cards are accepted onboard, except for online cards, such as Maestro or Visa Electron.

      By Train
      SJ and Norrtåg offer train services to Umeå. There are overnight trains and day trains, some of them connected to bus lines, from Stockholm, and from Gothenburg via Örebro. Both lines continue to Luleå in the county of Norrbotten and Kiruna and Alvik further north are accessible via Luleå.
      Umeå East (Umeå Östra) railway station is located near the University Hospital of Umeå, and is directly adjacent to Campus Umeå.

      By Bus
      Buses arrive from all over Sweden to the central bus terminal near the town centre. Nearly all major cities and towns can be reached via several bus carriers. Länstrafiken operates regional buses, which connect to other bus carriers. Ybuss offers affordable service to and from Stockholm, for those on a tight budget.

      By Car
      Take Highway E4 to Umeå (or E12 from western Västerbotten and Norway) and follow the signs to the hospital (Norrlands Universitetssjukhus) until you see specific signs for the University (Universitet). Parking areas can be found in front and around the KBC building.
      Parking on campus must be paid for in advance at the ticket machines located in the parking area, which accept all major credit cards (but can be slow especially when handling foreign cards).


      Umeå is a busy tourist and academic town, especially in the summer. Consequently, hotel rooms can be scarce and a booking in advance is recommended. You can find several options on this page or https://www.visitumea.se/en/ or via accommodation services such as AirBnB and Booking.com or directly contacting hotels.

      Useful Links

      Timetables of local buses (The bus stops closest to the venue are "Umeå växthuset" and "Umeå Universum")

      Time table for buses to and from Umeå Airport

      Swedish Rail Road (SJ) - Train information

      Umeå Airport - Information site, including flight information and car rental

      Tourist information about Umeå

      Programme for download: pdfProgramme_Anniversary_Symposium.pdf

      For questions please contact:
      Anne Honsel, UPSC Communication officer
      phone: +46 (0)90 786 8139
      mobile: +46 (0)70 285 6657
      Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
      Vetenskapslunch2017 SJansson 1920x1080Vetenskapslunch February 2017 (Umeå University)
      [2017-06-20] Ten new members from different fields were inaugurated to the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences during the second Assembly of the Academy. Stefan Jansson, professor at UPSC and Umeå university, was elected into the Division for Biotechnology.

      The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) is an independent engineering academy that fosters knowledge transfer activities and projects, and has the intention to have an impact on societal development and policy making.

      “It’s an extreme honour to be inducted into IVA. Hopefully my experience in plant biotechnology will be of some help in the Academy’s projects and activities,” says Stefan Jansson.

      SSF June2017 1920x1080From left to right: Stefan Björklund, Åsa Strand, Martin Rosvall (Photo: Anne Honsel)
      [2017-06-16] Åsa Strand, Stefan Björklund and Martin Rosvall, all researchers at Umeå University, have been awarded 35 million SEK from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research for a five-year research program on systems biology. The interdisciplinary project aims to map how plants react to abiotic stresses such as drought or extreme temperatures.

      The three researchers from Umeå University bring different expertise to this interdisciplinary project. Åsa Strand’s research is focussed on cellular signalling events, how a change in the environment is perceived and transduced to the nucleus. Stefan Björklund is an expert in the regulation of gene expression in the nucleus and Martin Rosvall develops mathematical models and algorithms to map complex networks. Together, they want to decode how plants acclimate to stressful growth environments.

      “We plan to use several different large-scale methods in our project to study how plants can defend themselves against different kinds of stress, e.g. heat, cold or salinity”, explains Åsa Strand, Professor in cell and molecular biology and main applicant of the project. “Extreme heat or cold as well as limited water availability are stress situations that lead to reduced plant productivity and yield.”

      Organisms respond to stress primarily by changing their gene expression. Stress signals are received by receptors either on the surface of a cell or by cellular organelles. These stress signals are then transmitted further to the nucleus in the cell where genes are activated to later be translated into proteins that are needed to adapt the organism to the stress situation. A large protein complex in the nucleus, the Mediator complex is conserved in all eukaryotic organisms and plays an essential role in the activation of genes.

      “Our research focuses on the role of the Mediator complex in plant acclimation to stress”, says Stefan Björklund, Professor in Medical Biochemistry. “The Mediator complex is a central point that coordinates different signals and controls how much of certain proteins is synthesised so that cells can adapt in the best way to a changing environment. Our hypothesis is that reactions to stress lead to effects in the cell nucleus in a complex and coherent manner.”

      Many recent methods for biological research generate massive amounts of data. The challenge is to interpret and analyze these data to infer causal mechanisms. Only by combining large-scale analyses with computational modelling is it possible to better understand interactions between different components in stress response. In this project, Martin Rosvall, Associate Professor in physics, will lead this component of the programme.

      “The wide expertise available at the Chemical Biological Centre (KBC) at Umeå University has been crucial for the cooperation that is the basis of our application”, underlines Martin Rosvall. “We are glad to be part of this interdisciplinary research environment.”

      Systems biology is a growing research area that aims to understand complex relationships within biological systems. The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) has approved nine projects in the frame of the call for proposals in the field of Systems biology and will support those projects in total with 300 million SEK.

      Link to the Swedish Press Release from Umeå University
      Link to the press release from SSF (in Swedish only)

      Read more about Åsa Strand’s research
      Read more about Stefan Björklund’s research
      Read more about Martin Rosvall’s research

      For more information, please contact:
      Åsa Strand, Professor, Umeå Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University
      Phone: 090-786 93 14, 070-309 62 97
      email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Stefan Björklund, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Umeå University
      Phone: 070-216 28 90
      email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Martin Rosvall, Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Umeå University
      Phone: 070-239 19 73
      email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      On the 20th of May 2017, the Fascination of Plants Day 2017 was organised at Sliperiet in Umeå. Many people visited Sliperiet for the Fascination of Plants Day 2017 in Umeå although it was the first nice spring weekend in Umeå. The visitors could try to take an aphid on the leash, taste CRISPR-ig chips made from gene-modified cabbage, isolate DNA from strawberries and participate in many other activities, all related to plants. Have a look on the short movie to get an impression about the Fascination of Plants Day 2017 in Umeå.

      The event in Umeå was organised by scientists from the Umeå Plant Science Centre and from other Departments from Umeå University and from the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, as well as by Arboretum Norr, the urban gardeners Umeå together with Studiefrämjandet, the horticulture class from Forslunda Gymnasiet, the Swedish Bonsai society (Bonsaisällskapet) and The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen).

      The International Fascination of Plants Day falls always on the 18th of May and is launched under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO). It is a biannual event, first organised in 2012 on a European level, but now activities are organised all over the world. The aim is to fascinated people for plants and to generate awareness for the importance of plant science.

      You can find more information about the event in Umeå here:
      Stefano Papazian 1141x1080
      [2017-05-30] All living organisms harbour complex chemical networks inside their cells. The sum of all these chemical reactions is the driving force of life and is called metabolism. Stefano Papazian, PhD student at the Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University, has studied how plants adapt their metabolic networks to respond to different environmental stresses. He will defend his thesis on Friday, 2nd of June 2017.

      In the environment, constant exposure to both living and non-living factors make plants vulnerable to a variety of threats. As plants cannot escape, they rely on their inner chemistry to confront all sorts of challenging scenarios.

      “Plants are masters of metabolism, which they can re-shape and adjust according to their different needs,” says Stefano Papazian. “We can see plants as very sophisticated chemical factories. They are able to produce thousands of different compounds, each one presenting unique biological properties.”

      Most of these chemical compounds – called phytochemicals, play an important role inside the plant, for instance in the defence against insects that feed on leaves. In his research, Stefano Papazian aimed to understand how the plant chemistry helps plants to defend against insect pests, such as butterfly caterpillars and aphids.

      Different insects cause different damage to the plant. While some butterfly caterpillars chew on the leaves, aphids feed by piercing through the plant surface and sucking its sap. “The plant metabolic response is very specific, and it adapts its defence strategy according to the different enemies the plant encounters,” says Stefano Papazian.

      Plants produce many toxic compounds that can impair and slow down the growth of their enemies, but in order to do so, they have to balance other central metabolic activities, such as photosynthesis. Stefano Papazian’s findings show that, in addition to producing substances to defend against caterpillar and aphid attacks, plants also reconfigure their sugar composition.

      In his research, Stefano Papazian also studied how air pollution by ozone affects the plant-insect interaction. “At an altitude of 50 kilometres in the atmosphere the ozone layer protects us from UV solar radiation, but at ground-level ozone is a toxic air pollutant, which affects both human health and plants”, explains Stefano Papazian. He showed in his thesis how exposure to ozone affects the growth of insects and also results in changes in the plant metabolism with negative effects on photosynthesis and the ability to defend themselves.

      “If we combine ecology with the study of plant chemistry and metabolism we can improve our understanding of plant-insect interactions in nature and agriculture. This comprehensive approach can help us to predict the effects of climate change and human impact on these delicate ecosystems,” says Stefano Papazian.

      Stefano Papazian was born and raised in Milano, Italy. He has a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Biotechnology from the University of Milano (Italy) and a Master´s degree in Experimental Plant Biology from Stockholm University. He performed his graduate studies at the Plant Physiology Department of Umeå University within the Umeå Plant Science Centre and in collaboration with the Swedish Metabolomics Centre.

      About the public defence of the dissertation:
      Friday, 2nd of June, Stefano Papazian from the Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University will defend his thesis entitled Black Mustard and the Butterfly Effect. Metabolomics of Plant-Insect Interactions under Multiple Stress Conditions. The public defence will take place at 10.00 in ”Lilla Hörsalen” (KB.E3.01), in the KBC building at Umeå University. Faculty opponent is Professor Edward (Ted) Farmer, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

      Link to the full dissertation: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-134653
      Link to the Swedish press release on the homepage of Umeå University: http://www.teknat.umu.se/nyhet//.cid282856

      For more information, please contact:
      Stefano Papazian
      Umeå Plant Science Centre
      Department of Plant Physiology
      Umeå University

      Phone: +4672 3160 854
      Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Text: Stefano Papazian, Anna-Lena Lindskog
      Photo: Karen Kloth

      DSundell 1920x1080
      [2017-05-18] David Sundell has developed novel interactive web tools that can visualize and perform statistical analysis of gene expression data based on two high-spatial resolution datasets of wood development. One tool that can compare expression between species may help identify genes with conserved biological function. David Sundell will defend his thesis at Umeå University today.

      David Sundell has analysed two high-spatial resolution datasets profiling wood development from the angiosperm tree aspen (Populus tremula) and from the conifer species Norway spruce (Picea abies). For each of the datasets he developed a web resource (AspWood och NorWood ) including tools for the exploration of gene expression, co-expression and functional enrichment of gene sets.

      One developed resource (ComPlEx) allows interactive, comparative co-expression analysis between species to identify conserved and diverged co-expression modules. These tools make it possible to identifying conserved regulatory modules that can focus downstream research and provide biologists with a resource to identify regulatory genes for targeted trait improvement.

       “The goal was to provide a platform (PlantGenIE) where scientists can investigate the processes underlying wood formation including comparative analysis between species”, says David Sundell. “My research has resulted in a set of powerful resources for identifying genes controlling wood development and the functional properties of wood. This probably allows to develop new varieties with increased biomass or optimal properties for downstream uses such as bioenergy uses in a more targeted way.”

      Research on wood development conducted in conifer tree species is limited. The majority of research has been conducted in model angiosperm species such as Arabidopsis thaliana. Using model organisms such as aspen and Norway spruce is possible due to the fact that all living organisms derive from a common ancestor. This means that a gene that exists in two species had the same function at the time of divergence from their last common ancestor. Throughout evolution, the function of the two gene copies may diverge, but a signature of the shared ancestry remains in the DNA sequence of the two gene copies.

      The identification of such orthologous genes and of the regulatory pathways controlling those genes by comparing sequences similarities from angiosperms and gymnosperms is limited due to the large evolutionary distance between these two plant groups. The have diverged hundreds of millions of years ago. At such large evolutionary distances additional information, such as gene expression data, is required for functional annotation.

      Lignocellulose from plants is the most abundant source of terrestrial biomass and is one of the energy sources that can potentially replace fossil fuels. For a country such as Sweden, where the forest industry accounts for 10% of total economic export, increased plant biomass yields would not only be beneficial for the environment, but also for the economy of the country.

      About the defence:

      Thursday, the 18th of May, David Sundell, Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University, will defend his thesis with the title: Novel resources enabling comparative regulomics in forst tree species. Swedish titel: Nya verktyg för komparativ regulomik i skogsträd.

      The public defence will be in Lilla hörsalen KB3A9, KBC-huset.

      Faculty opponent is Professor Klaas Vandepoele, VIB/Ghent University, Belgium.

      For more information, please contact:

      David Sundell, 
      Phone: +46705943742
      E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Text: David Sundell
      [2017-05-15] Seoljong Kim, student of Master’s programme in Plant and Forest Biotechnology, is Umeå University’s Global Swede for 2017. The annual recognition of Global Swede is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swedish Institute. This is the seventh year this recognition is awarded.

      Seoljong Kim from South Korea is in his final term of Master’s programme in Plant and Forest Biotechnology. He was selected for this recognition after distinguishing himself during his studies.

      “One quality sets him apart from other top students: his curiosity towards peculiar, hidden subjects in plant biology. This is best illustrated by his selection of master thesis work to study edible orchids in Zambia. He unearthed the topic for himself, approached the group working on the field, designed the thesis project, conducted the work in Africa and done the lab work back in Sweden. To organise the whole project required enthusiasm, lots of time, effort and a strong drive that he has”, says programme director Laszlo Bako.

      See the full text on the homepage of Umeå University here: http://www.umu.se/english/news/.cid282572

      Link to the Swedish news: http://www.umu.se/nyhet//.cid282547
      [2017-05-11] Journalist Vanessa Hill has interviewed experts around the world about gene engineering with CRIPSR techniques. Stefan Jansson, Professor at Umeå University and group leader at the UPSC, is one of the interview partners.  The documentary which is freely available on YouTube aims to be a starting point for discussing the pro and contra of gene editing methods and their use in society.

      Link to the documentary: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NrDM6Ic2xMM
      170320 PNAS MKKL 2 1920x1080The organic electronic ion pump positioned in vivo next to the Arabidopsis root. Macro and micro view, with highlighted delivery channel. Picture: Michal Karady

      A drug delivery ion pump constructed from organic electronic components also works in plants. Researchers from the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University and from the Umeå Plant Science Centre have used such an ion pump to control the root growth of a small flowering plant, the thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana).

      In the spring of 2015, researchers from the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University presented a microfabricated ion pump with the ability to pump in the correct dose of a naturally occurring pain-relief agent exactly where it was needed. This was a first step towards effective treatment of such conditions as chronic pain. In the autumn of the same year, the researchers presented results showing how they had caused roses to absorb a water-soluble conducting polymer, enabling them to create a fully operational transistor in the rose stem. The term “flower power” suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

      Delivering hormones to plants

      “Around 10 years ago, we started considering applying our ion pump drug delivery devices to plants. It wasn´t until several years later that we teamed up with Professor Markus Grebe and colleagues at the Umeå Plant Science Centre and finally discovered that the ion pump could be of great use to plant biologists", says Daniel Simon, Associate Professor and head of the organic bioelectronics research area in the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Linköping University.

      Assistant Professor David Poxson, Laboratory of Organic Electronics, teamed up with the group´s chief chemist, Assistant Professor Roger Gabrielsson, to develop new ion pump materials capable of transporting and delivering powerful plant signalling compounds such as the hormone auxin.

      Dr. Poxson then worked closely with biologists at the Umeå Plant Science Centre to investigate highly-resolved delivery of auxin to the roots of living thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana. This plant is to plant biologists what the fruit fly Drosophila is to researchers working in animal research: a major model organism.

      The result: Electronically-controlled gradients of plant hormone were taken up by the roots. Dr. Poxson and co-author Dr. Michal Karady followed the internal auxin response with the help of fluorescent reporter proteins that change their fluorescence intensity in the presence of auxin. They observed that the internal auxin response and even the roots´ growth rate could be controlled by the ion pump delivery of auxin.

      A ground-breaking step for plant research

      “We have accomplished a ground-breaking step for plant research by our multidisciplinary effort”, says Markus Grebe. “Several research groups from Umeå Plant Science Centre and Linköping University have been involved. The pump will likely allow us to locally apply not only auxin but also a variety of other hormones to plants in an electronically controlled manner. This will help us to study the impact of these hormones on plant growth and development at tissue and cellular resolution.”

      “These new DendrolyteTM materials also pave the way for future ion pump capabilities in a variety of areas, for example delivery of larger aromatic compounds like plant hormones or even certain pharmaceuticals,” says Daniel Simon.

      The results have now been published in the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

      “This is an important advance: we now know not only that we can use the ion pump in plants, but also that we can regulate their physiology and growth,” says Professor Magnus Berggren, head of the Laboratory of Organic Electronics.

      The research has been funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation as part of the ShapeSystems project.

      The article:
      Regulating plant physiology with organic electronics, David Poxson, Michal Karady, Roger Gabrielsson, Aziz Alkattan, Anna Gustavsson, Siamsa Doyle, Stéphanie Robert, Karin Ljung, Markus Grebe, Daniel T Simon and Magnus Berggren, Linköping University, Umeå University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences 2017, PNAS, doi/10.1073/pnas.1617758114

      Contact at Linköping Unversity:
      Daniel Simon
      Department of Science and Technology
      Division of Physics and Electronics
      This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
      +46 11 363476

      Contact at Umeå Plant Science Centre:
      Markus Grebe (at UPSC)
      Department of Plant Physiology
      Umeå University
      This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      For more information about Markus Grebe, see also here:

      Karin Ljung
      Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
      Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
      +46 (0)90 786 8355

      Text: Monica Westman Svenselius (Linköping University)

      The model plant thale cress acquires organic nitrogen from the soil, although its roots do not form symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi. This is shown in a study, led by SLU researchers. They also show that plants can acquire organic nitrogen in competition with microorganisms in soil, which previously has been questioned. This means that organic nitrogen can contribute to the plant’s nitrogen supply, and raises the question if agricultural crops could be modified to become more efficient in using organic nitrogen as a source of nutrients. The study is published in a recent issue of the scientific journal Plant, Cell & Environment.

      The classic science on plant nutrition states that plants acquire nitrogen from the soil as nitrate or ammonium, or as nitrogen gas if the plant forms symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Today we know that there are plants that also can make use of organic nitrogen, but the consensus has been that it only applies to certain mycorrhiza-forming plants growing in nutrient-poor soils. Together with colleagues from Austria and Australia the SLU researchers show that a plant that does not form mycorrhiza acquires organic nitrogen when grown in nutritious agricultural soil.

      The new findings show that the plant is dependent on a specific protein for this to work. The protein is an amino acid transporter, and the researchers have performed a number of experiments on genetically modified thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) that either lack the transporter or over produces it. Torgny Näsholm, Professor in ecophysiology at the Swedish University of agricultural sciences in Umeå, led the study.

      "We grew the plants in greenhouses in agricultural soil, and could follow the way of the amino acid glutamine from the soil into the plant by labelling the glutamine with carbon and nitrogen isotopes. It turned out that the uptake of the amino acid is much more efficient in plants that overproduce the amino acid transporter, and very low in plants lacking the transporter", he explains.

      Additionally, the plants that were lacking the transporter had the lowest carbon/nitrogen ratios, and the plants overproducing the transporters had the highest ratios. Theoretically, the amino acids should result in a higher carbon concentration, which indicates that the plants have been taking up organic nitrogen from the soil continuously. "This study is a milestone in our research. With the use of genetically modified model plants we have been able to show that amino acids in soil are used as nitrogen sources by plants. We also aim to increase the plant capacity to take up nitrogen from the soil, and our results show that an optimization of organic nitrogen uptake is a possible way to achieve this", says Torgny Näsholm.

      Thale cress is not an agricultural crop, but a model plant which is often used to predict the effects of genetic modifications in agricultural plant species. As part of the research programme Mistra Biotech, the research group now investigates how the uptake of organic nitrogen can be improved in potato. "We are now testing if it is possible to use the same strategy to increase the uptake of organic nitrogen in an agricultural crop. We have propagated modified potato clones to see if we get the same increase in potato as in thale cress."

      PCE article Ganeteg 1920x1080 1Photos: Iftikhar Ahmad; Illustration: Ulrika Ganeteg

      Scientific article:
      Ganeteg, U., Ahmad, I., Jämtgård, S., Aguetoni-Cambui, C., Inselsbacher, E., Svennerstam, H., Schmidt, S., and Näsholm, T. (2017) Amino acid transporter mutants of Arabidopsis provides evidence that a non-mycorrhizal plant acquires organic nitrogen from agricultural soil. Plant, Cell & Environment 40: 413–423. doi: 10.1111/pce.12881.

      Link to the Swedish press release on the SLU homepage

      More information about Mistra Biotech: http://www.slu.se/mistrabiotech


      Torgny Näsholm, Professor
      Department of Forest Ecology and Management, SLU
      Phone: +46-90-786 8205
      E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Ulrika Ganeteg, researcher
      Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, SLU
      Phone: +46 (0)90 786 8431
      E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Henrik Svennerstam, researcher
      Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, SLU
      Phone: +46 (0)90 786 8641
      E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

      Mistra Biotech
      This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
      +4618 672232