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DKK 10 M to understand sugar and hormone transport in plants

Professor Bjørn Panyella Pedersen has been awarded a DKK 10 M Ascending Investigator Grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation's leadership research programme. His research group aims to promote sustainable agriculture by exploring how plants can adapt and develop throughout their growth period through the analysis of cellular function and interaction.

Bjørn Panyella Pedersen has been awarded DKK 10 M from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to find out how plants can adapt and change during their growth period by looking at the small details of how their cells function and interact, in order to create more sustainable agriculture (photo: Lisbeth Heilesen)

Growth and development in the plant kingdom are mediated by the controlled distribution of sugars and the growth regulating hormone auxin, but we still know surprisingly little about the molecular details of these two intertwined and essential parts of fundamental plant metabolism. The new project in Bjørn Panyella Pedersen’s research group will elucidate the molecular mechanism of sugar and hormone transmembrane transport in plants.

Correct plant growth and development are completely dependent on sugar uptake and made possible in all plants by sugar transporters called SUCs and STPs. In parallel, intracellular auxin levels trigger this growth and development, and are regulated via the activity of auxin transporters called PINs. Herbicides known as synthetic auxins are transported through the plant by auxin transporters including PINs to interfere with plant growth, and they represent 20% of the total world-wide use of herbicides.

Despite extensive research, central parts of the molecular mechanisms behind sugar and auxin transport, regulation and substrate recognition remain unknown. The project will address this by using a complementary set of methods founded in structural biology to determine the 3-dimensional structures of key players in these transmembrane transport systems in parallel with a comprehensive biophysical characterization.

Bjørn P Pedersen says: ”Understanding how substrates, including herbicides, are recognized by these central transporters will allow us to predict, augment and modify plant responses to a changing environment, with immense agronomic applications highly relevant for a green transition. I am very happy for this award that will allow us to continue our work within this topic, and I am very proud of my research team that made it possible.”

More information

Professor Bjørn Panyella Pedersen - bpp@mbg.au.dk
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University, Denmark