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Plant Molecular Ecophysiology


Our general interests concern the understanding of physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying plant responses to environmental stresses as well as the differences among genotypes in the capacity to utilize external resources. 

Maria Manuela Chaves
Professora Catedrática Aposentada ISA-UTL
PhD 1986 in Agronomy (Plant Physiology) UTL

Phone (+351) 214469641
Extension 1641


Research Interests

Growth and development of plants is largely dependent on external conditions. Usually, plants grow slower than their theoretical optimal rate because one or more essential factors are limiting, e.g., light, temperature, available water, etc.

This research group studies the interaction between plants and the environment. The analysis of plant responses to stressful conditions from the molecular up to the level of the intact plant allows a fully integrated understanding of plant-environment interaction. LEM has expertise in the study of the mechanisms which contribute to determine photosynthesis, transpiration, plant growth, yield and fruit quality of plants subjected to various abiotic stresses. More efficient and sustainable utilisation of resources such as water by plants becomes a high research priority to cope with the consequences of exploding demographic trends and challenging climate changes. This requires renewed knowledge on plant adaptability to marginal lands and sub-optimal environments. At present, most of our studies are concentrated on grapevines but we also have projects on chickpea, Lupinus spp, and Quercus spp.

In grapevine, we have shown that large fluxes of water are not essential for optimal plant performance. Moderate water deficits, induced by irrigation below evapotranspiration (deficit irrigation), might be used to control sink-source relationships without negatively affecting berry quality. The analysis of mild water deficits on grape berry quality (e.g. flavonoid compounds like anthocyanins and other non-flavonoid polyphenols like stylbenes) is a matter of research. Furthermore, gene expression analysis at proteomic and transcriptomic levels has been performed under mild drought stress. In a more target approach genes related to grape berry quality traits have been cloned.

In the case of Mediterranean-type forest ecosystems, we are particularly interested to assess how external drivers (season, temperature, soil water content) affect nitrogen and carbon cycles.


Group Members

  • Manuela Chaves
  • Miguel Costa
  • Rita Francisco
  • Marta Pintó-Marijuan
  • Alla Shvaleva
  • Olfa Zarrouk
  • Catarina Bicho

Selected Publications

  1. COSTA JM, ORTUÑO M.F., LOPES C. M, CHAVES MM 2012 Grapevine varieties exhibiting differences in stomatal response to water deficit. Functional Plant Biology, 2012, 39, 179–189.
  2. PINHEIRO C, CHAVES MM 2011 Photosynthesis and drought: can we make metabolic connections from available data? Journal of Experimental Botany. 62, 869–882. DOI: 10.1093/JXB/ERQ340.
  3. CHAVES MM, ZARROUK O, FRANCISCO R, COSTA JM, SANTOS T, REGALADO AP, RODRIGUES ML, LOPES CM. 2010. Grapevine under deficit irrigation – hints from physiological and molecular data. Annals of botany 105: 661-676. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcq030.

Laboratory's Website

For further information please visit the laboratory's website

Ecofisiologia Molecular de Plantas (PT)

O Laboratório de Ecofisiologia Molecular de Plantas dedica-se ao estudo da tolerância das plantas ao stresse abiótico, em particular à identificação dos mecanismos de regulação (desde o nível molecular ao nível ecofisiológico) que permitem a adaptação das plantas às alterações do ambiente. Outro dos objectivos é a caracterização fisiológica de genótipos no que respeita a sua eficiência de utilização de recursos do meio (ex. água e azoto), com impacto nas técnicas culturais e no melhoramento vegetal. Entre as plantas estudadas neste laboratório destacamos a videira (Vitis vinífera L.), pela importância na produção vitivinícola, as proteaginosas (tremoço, Lupinus spp e grão de bico, Cicer arietinum), importantes na alimentação animal e fonte de proteína vegetal e as espécies florestais (Pinus pinaster e Quercus spp), numa perspectiva de melhoramento genético florestal, tendo em conta os impactos das mudanças globais no ambiente. 


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