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Plant Cell Biology


The Plant Cell Biology Laboratory works on several aspects of the biology of the plant cell, including the functional organization of the cell nucleus and protein processing within the plant secretory pathway. 


rita abranches


Rita Abranches
Investigador Auxiliar

Phone (+351) 214469637 | Extension 1637


Research Interests

We use transgenic plants as models to study several aspects of the biology of the plant cell. The main objective of our current research is to integrate the fundamental and applied aspects of Molecular Farming - the large scale production of recombinant proteins in plants - by determining which processes influence recombinant protein expression, accumulation and stability. We are particularly interested in understanding how transgene expression is influenced by higher-order chromatin structure, for example how integration and epigenetic modifications influence the expression and stability of transgenes. We are also studying the accumulation of recombinant products in the plant cell and how it is influenced by protein processing, transport and deposition in various tissues. We are mainly using the model plants Medicago truncatula and Arabidopsis thaliana (both whole plants and suspension cell cultures), and BY-2 tobacco cells. For our studies we use transgenes encoding pharmaceutical and feed additive proteins, which adds an applied dimension to this research and enhances the importance of the fundamental cell biology questions we are addressing.

We are also investigating some fundamental processes involved in the organization and function of the cell nucleus such as Chromatin Dynamics. Our studies focus on the role of chromatin dynamics in the organization of genomes from different plant species including Medicago truncatula. We are also analysing chromatin dynamics and cellular differentiation in Arabidopsis. 


Group Members

    • Ana Sofia Pires, Postdoc
    • Ana Rita Santos, PhD Student
    • Ana Cláudia Nogueira, Master Student
    • Ana Isabel Opinião, Master Student 

Selected Publications

  1. Rosa S, Ntoukakis V, Ohmido N, Pendle A, ABRANCHES R and Shaw P. Cell differentiation and development in Arabidopsis are associated with changes in histone dynamics at the single cell level. The Plant Cell. In press
  2. Pires AS, Rosa S, Castanheira S, Fevereiro P and ABRANCHES R. (2012).
    Expression of a recombinant human Erythropoietin in suspension cell cultures of Arabidopsis, Tobacco and Medicago. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture 110, 171-181.
  3. Pires AS, Cabral MG, Fevereiro P, Stoger E and Abranches R. (2008). High levels of stable phytase accumulate in the culture medium of transgenic Medicago truncatula cell suspension cultures. Biotechnology Journal 3, 916-923.
  4. Abranches R, Arcalis E, Marcel S, Altmann F, Ribeiro-Pedro M, Rodriguez J and Stoger E. (2008). Functional specialization of Medicago truncatula leaves and seeds does not affect the subcellular localization of a recombinant protein. Planta 227, 649-658.

Full publication list

Laboratory's Website

For further information please visit the laboratory's website

Biologia Celular de Plantas (PT)

As plantas podem ser usadas como sistemas de produção de biofármacos, em alternativa aos sistemas convencionais de bactérias ou culturas de células de animais. Os sistemas vegetais apresentam diversas vantagens principalmente a nível de redução de custos e também menores riscos de contaminações com patogénios humanos. Neste laboratório estamos a testar diferentes espécies vegetais como potenciais bioreactores para a produção de biofármacos e aditivos para alimento animal. Além disso, utilizamos estas plantas transgénicas como modelos de estudo de outros aspectos de biologia mais fundamental, que também são importantes para o sucesso da utilização de plantas transgénicas, como por exemplo a estabilidade de expressão do transgene na planta.


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