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Plant Biochemistry

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The Plant Biochemistry Laboratory applies transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics to study plant development and stress response. Cellular processes of model plants and molecular plasticity of plant genetic resources are areas of research. 

Cândido Pinto Ricardo

Cândido Pinto Ricardo
Professor Catedrático Jubilado
PhD 1968 in Plant Biochemistry Cambridge University, UK

Phone (+351) 214469654 | Extension 1654
ricardo@itqb.unl.pt

 

Research Interests

We have a main interest in the research of drought, temperature and mineral stresses, because these abiotic stresses are often interrelated and greatly affect plant productivity, with expectation of becoming still more serious problems in the near future. We study the plant reactions to the stresses through the changes in gene expression, protein patterns (obtained after separation by 2-D electrophoresis) and metabolite profiles (determined by NMR and HPLC techniques). Plants under adverse environmental conditions are screened, in order to detect and identify the cellular agents associated with plant tolerance and survival. For instance, in the model plant Arabidopsis, responses to severe drought are compared with those of Thellungiella, a close relative more tolerant to stress. The same type of study is performed with crops, and an example is that of the beet plant (Beta), for which cultivated forms versus their wild relatives are compared. Beets are important plant systems to study not only drought, but also salinity, because the beet wild relatives live near the sea and constitute, then, a good system to understand the mechanisms that allow the plant to tolerate high salt levels. Salinity is a cause of rising concern worldwide, as it is often associated with drought and also results from improper irrigation procedures in agriculture.

Our research on abiotic stress also focus upon the legume plants, which comprise important grain crops, such as soybean (Glycine max), lupin (Lupinus sp.), faba bean (Vicia faba), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and chick pea (Cicer arietinum), and model plants, such as Medicago and Lotus. Our investigation on the grain legumes is not only directed to the alterations in the vegetative organs, but also to the seeds, due to their high physiological and economic value. Seed proteins, small soluble metabolites, minerals and anti-nutrition and allergenic factors are analyzed during seed development and in relation with the stresses applied to the plant. A special attention is being devoted to iron (Fe) deficiency, because legume seeds are important sources of protein and Fe for human nutrition, knowledge on the mechanisms of Fe storage needing to be improved.

Cork oak is an emblematic Portuguese forest tree of high ecological and socio-economic value that is threatened by climate change. Considering the need to protect cork oak and the scarcity of knowledge on its genetics we have been interested in studying its biology, particularly under the effect of abiotic stress. We have also been studying the molecular processes of cork formation, both in the cork oak stem and in the potato (Solanum tuberosum) tuber, used as a model system of suberization.

 

Group Members

  • Carla Pinheiro, Auxiliary Investigator
  • Inês Chaves, Post Doc
  • Isa Ribeiro, PhD Student
  • Adelaide Machado, Research Assistant (BI)

 

Selected Publications

  1. Pinheiro, C., Baeta, J.P., Pereira, A.M., Domingues, H. and Ricardo, C.P. (2010) Diversity of seed mineral accumulation of Phaseolus vulgaris L. germplasm. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 23, 319-325.
  2. Ricardo, C.P.P., Martins, I., Francisco, R., Sergeant, K., Pinheiro, C., Campos, A., Renaut, J. and Fevereiro, P. (2011) Proteins associated with cork formation in Quercus suber L. stem tissues. Journal of Proteomics, 74, 1266-1278.
  3. Pinheiro, C., Antonio, C., Ortuño, M.F., Dobrev, P.I., Hartung, W., Thomas-Oates, J., Ricardo, C.P., Vankova, R., Chaves, M.M. and Wilson, J.C. (2011) Initial water deficit effects on Lupinus albus photosynthetic performance, carbon metabolism and hormonal balance: metabolic reorganization prior to early stress responses. J. Exp. Botany, 62, 4965-4974.

 

Laboratory's Website

For further information please visit the laboratory's website
 

Bioquímica Vegetal (PT)

O nosso laboratório estuda efeitos adversos do ambiente (seca, alta temperature, desequilíbrios minerais) no comportamento das plantas, através da análise da expressão genética, de teores de proteínas, açúcares e outros constituintes, para aferir das alterações ocorridas. A finalidade é obter informação que leve a compreender os mecanismos celulares de defesa das plantas, com vista a um futuro melhoramento. Estudamos plantas agrícolas e também plantas-modelo (como a Arabidopsis), que facilitam a obtenção de conclusões. A formação das sementes, a acumulação de reservas de interesse nutricional e a produção de factores menos favoráveis são processos que analisamos, também sob efeito das condições adversas. Estudamos ainda as interacções do sobreiro com o clima e a formação da cortiça, dado o valor comercial deste produto, a importância ecológica do sobreiro e o fraco conhecimento genético sobre esta árvore emblemática para o país. Procuramos identificar proteínas e genes envolvidos na síntese da cortiça e constituintes das folhas que expressem reacções da planta ao meio ambiente.

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