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Discovery of factors regulating carbohydrate storage in plants: implications for biotechnological improvement of crops for food and for clean, green technologies.

Applicant Zeeman Samuel C.
Number 148857
Funding scheme Bilateral programmes
Research institution Departement Umweltsystemwissenschaften ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Biochemistry
Start/End 01.08.2014 - 31.07.2017
Approved amount 224'450.00
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All Disciplines (6)

Discipline
Biochemistry
Genetics
Cellular Biology, Cytology
Botany
Molecular Biology
Agricultural and Forestry Sciences

Keywords (6)

Agricultural biotechnology; Arabidopsis thaliana; Starch metabolism; Proteomics; Molecular genetics; Starch crops

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Von Pflanzen produzierte Kohlenhydrate bilden eine bedeutende Grundlage für unsere Gesellschaft: Sie besitzen nicht nur einen hohen Nährwert, sondern dienen auch als wichtige Rohstoffe für die Industrie. Das Ziel unserer Forschung ist es, zu verstehen wie eine Pflanze Menge und Form der gespeicherten Kohlenhydrate kontrolliert. Mithilfe modernster Techniken erforschen wir bislang unbekannte Gene, die an der Herstellung des wichtigsten pflanzlichen Kohlenhydrates - Stärke - beteiligt sind.
Lay summary

Von Pflanzen produzierte Kohlenhydrate wie Zucker und Stärke bilden eine bedeutende Grundlage für unsere Gesellschaft: Sie besitzen nicht nur einen hohen Nährwert, sondern sind auch wichtige Rohstoffe für die Industrie. Das Ziel der hier vorgeschlagenen Forschung ist es, neue Proteine zu entdecken, die die Menge und Form der von der Pflanze gespeicherten Kohlenhydrate kontrollieren. Unser Augenmerk liegt auf der Herstellung von Stärke, dem häufigsten pflanzlichen Speicherkohlenhydrat.

Stärke besteht aus Glukose (Traubenzucker), die zu linearen und verzweigten Ketten polymerisiert, die dann wiederum semi-kristalline, wasser-unlösliche Stärkekörner ausbilden. Obwohl Stärke uns allen bekannt ist, verstehen Wissenschaftler noch nicht vollständig, wie sie von Pflanzen hergestellt wird: Stärkekörner können nicht im Reagenzglas nachgebaut werden und wie die Zuckerpolymere in der lebenden Zelle kristallisieren, bleibt ebenfalls ein Rätsel. Pflanzen besitzen bestimmte Proteine, Enzyme, die die Zuckerpolymere synthetisieren. Vermutlich sind aber weitere, noch unbekannte Proteine beteiligt, die diesen Prozess koordinieren und kontrollieren oder die Kristallisation beschleunigen.

Unsere Forschung zielt auf die Charakterisierung dieser bislang unerforschten Proteine. Durch vorbereitende Arbeit konnten wir bereits eine Reihe von Proteinkandidaten identifizieren, deren Funktion wir jetzt mithilfe von genetischen und biochemischen Ansätzen untersuchen wollen. Beispielsweise werden wir das entsprechende Gen aus der Modellpflanze Arabidopsis thaliana entfernen und die Auswirkung auf die Stärkeherstellung prüfen.

Dieser Wissen könnte dazu beitragen, verbesserte stärkeliefernde Pflanzen (wie Kartoffeln oder Getreide) herzustellen, sei es durch Züchtung oder biotechnologischer Methoden.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 05.03.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Analysis of genes involved in glycogen degradation in Escherichia coli
Strydom L, Jewell J, Meier Michael, George Gavin M, Pfister Barbara, Zeeman Samuel C, Kossmann Jens, Lloyd James R. (2017), Analysis of genes involved in glycogen degradation in Escherichia coli, in FEMS Microbiology Letters, 364, fnx016.
Homologs of PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH Control Starch Granule Initiation in Arabidopsis Leaves
Seung David, Boudet Julien, Monroe Jonathan, Schreier Tina B, David Laure C, Abt Melanie, Lu Kuan-Jen, Zanella Martina, Zeeman Samuel C (2017), Homologs of PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH Control Starch Granule Initiation in Arabidopsis Leaves, in Plant Cell, 29, 1657-1677.
The starch granule-associated protein EARLY STARVATION1 (ESV1) is required for the control of starch degradation in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves
Feike Doreen, Seung David, Graf Alex, Bischof Sylvain, Ellick Tamaryn, Coiro Mario, Soyk Sebastian, Eicke Simona, Mettler-Altmann Tabea, Lu Kuan-Jen, Trick Martin, Zeeman Samuel C, Smith Alison M (2016), The starch granule-associated protein EARLY STARVATION1 (ESV1) is required for the control of starch degradation in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves, in Plant Cell, 28(6), 1472-1489.
PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH Is Required for Localising GRANULE-BOUND STARCH SYNTHASE to Starch Granules and for Normal Amylose Synthesis in Arabidopsis
Seung David, Soyk Sebastian, Coiro Mario, Maier Benjamin A, Eicke Simona, Zeeman Samuel C (2015), PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH Is Required for Localising GRANULE-BOUND STARCH SYNTHASE to Starch Granules and for Normal Amylose Synthesis in Arabidopsis, in PLOS Biology, 13(2), e1002080.
Transitory and storage starch metabolism: Two sides of the same coin?
Lloyd James R, Kossmann J (2015), Transitory and storage starch metabolism: Two sides of the same coin?, in Current Opinions in Biotechnology, 32, 143-148.
Virus induced gene silencing as a scalable tool to
George Gavin M, Ruckle Michael, Lloyd James R (2015), Virus induced gene silencing as a scalable tool to, in Mysore KS and Senthil-Kumar M (ed.), Springer Science, New York, 243-253.
Virus induced gene silencing as a scalable tool to Study Drought Tolerance in Plants
George Gavin M, Ruckle Michael, Lloyd James R (2015), Virus induced gene silencing as a scalable tool to Study Drought Tolerance in Plants, in Mysore KS and Senthil-Kumar M (ed.), 243-253.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Plant Biotechnology, ETH Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Institute of Plant Biotechnology (Kossmann Laboratory), University of Stellenbosch South Africa (Africa)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Department of Metabolic Biology (Smith laboratory), John Innes Centre Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Starch Round Table Talk given at a conference Giving starch a new look – taking the granule apart and putting it back together again. 04.10.2017 San Diego, United States of America Zeeman Samuel C.;
Chinese Academy of Sciences 4th Plant Metabolism Conference Talk given at a conference Protein Targeting to STarch: A new class of proteins that bring enzymes and substrates together 16.07.2017 Dalian, China Zeeman Samuel C.;
SwissPlant17 Talk given at a conference Protein Targeting to STarch: A new class of proteins that bring enzymes and substrates together 25.01.2017 Leukerbad , Switzerland Zeeman Samuel C.;
European starch round table Talk given at a conference Manipulation of polyglucan bound phosphate in plants and bacteria – new pathways and improved industrial starches (talk by Dr. James Lloyd) 17.11.2016 Lille, France Kossmann Jens;
European starch round table Talk given at a conference New insights into starch metabolism from the analysis of non-enzymatic, starch binding proteins and from heterologous reconstruction of the biosynthetic pathway in yeast 17.11.2016 Lille, France Zeeman Samuel C.;
67th Starch Convention, Detmold, Germany Talk given at a conference Proteins that are important for amylose synthesis. 13.04.2016 Detmold, Germany Zeeman Samuel C.;
AACC International conference Talk given at a conference Understanding starch biosynthesis in order to control its structure, composition and properties 05.10.2014 Providence RI, United States of America Zeeman Samuel C.;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Invited presentation at Carlsberg Laboratories: Protein Targeting to Starch (PTSTs): A new class of proteins that bring enzymes and substrates together. Talk 23.02.2017 Copenhagen, Denmark Zeeman Samuel C.;
Plant Science Centre interaction workshop with Keygene Workshop 06.07.2016 Wageningen, Netherlands Zeeman Samuel C.;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media A taxi ride to starch granules sciencedaily.com International 2015

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
153144 Understanding the Mechanism of Starch Biosynthesis in Plants 01.04.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)
131074 Discovering the roles of debranching enzymes in starch metabolism in arabidopsis 01.04.2010 Project funding (Div. I-III)
158542 PSC Discovery Program for Youth 01.04.2015 Agora

Abstract

Society relies on the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) produced and stored by plants. In addition to their nutritive value, extracted carbohydrates serve as raw materials in industry. Increasingly, both starch and sugars are used as feedstocks for the production of biofuels, a necessary component of our future sources of renewable energy. The work proposed here aims to discover novel protein factors that control how much and in what form carbohydrates are stored. Starch is the major plant storage carbohydrate, which accumulates in seeds, roots or tubers of the crop plants that form the basis of human nutrition. Increasing the yields of starch crops and modifying the properties of starch are important biotechnological goals. Therefore, we will focus on starch in this work.Although most plants store starch, its metabolism is not fully understood. Starch is composed of glucose polymerised into linear and branched glucans that assemble as massive insoluble granules. Unanswered questions surround 1) the initiation of starch granules - what controls their number and form? This is important as granule size has an impact on properties and end use, and may also limit starch production. 2) The structure of the constituent polymers and how they form insoluble, semi-crystalline structures - how do enzymes working on a soluble substrate generate a crystalline product? Starch granules cannot be generated in a test tube and how the crystallisation process occurs in vivo is unknown. It may involve structural and/or binding proteins in addition to the biosynthetic enzymes. 3) How is starch amount controlled? This is a key question if we are to increase the starch content of plants. Some control lies at the level of substrate supply, but additional control is likely applied during biosynthesis at the granule surface. We will take a new approach to search for previously unidentified protein factors that control these processes.This new proposal has three parts. The first part describes research using proteomics to identify previously uncharacterised starch granule-bound proteins involved in starch biosynthesis. Through preparatory work and external collaborations, we have obtained the biological materials and demonstrated that we have the technological expertise to do this. The second part uses molecular-genetic and biochemical approaches, in which our labs have longstanding expertise, to analyse the functions of the newly identified proteins. This will be done both in vivo and in vitro, using the Arabidopsis thaliana and Escherichia coli model systems. The third part will apply useful knowledge to alter the starch properties in potato and cassava - important European and African starch crops. For this applied approach, our groups have expertise in house from the first phase and bridging funding in 2012/2013. Furthermore, we have fruitful interactions with other researchers, including experts on cassava (Prof C. Rey, University of the Witwatersrand, and Dr H. Vanderschuren, ETH Zurich) within the Swiss-South African Joint Research Programme (SSAJRP).In the first phase of the SSAJRP, we built a highly effective collaboration between our labs with a series of meetings, staff exchanges, joint research and joint publications. By analysing proteins that determine the amount of phosphate covalently bound to starch, we demonstrated that our approaches can provide valuable knowledge (patented together with Bayer CropScience). This knowledge will enable the future improvement of starch crops. Thus, we anticipate that the fundamental discoveries made during this joint research programme will have far-reaching implications in terms of agriculture and the production of raw materials for renewable clean green technologies.
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