Plants cannot see but they can perceive the quantity and quality of light. As they have evolved plants have developed numerous molecular photodetectors such as phytochromes. Phytochromes can detect changes in the light situation. The undergrowth of forests thus manages to grow towards the few patches of sunlight that the phytochromes can detect. Researchers have long puzzled over how phytochromes transmit information about the light level into the nucleus and enable plants to react to changing light situations by altering the activity of specific genes. Four years ago a group of researchers led by Prof. em. Dr. Eberhard Schäfer clarified the principle underlying the transport of phytochrome A into the nucleus. Now the team led by Schäfer and Dr. Tim Kunkel has achieved the same success with phytochrome B.
Chemical model systems can be used to study the processes of plant photosynthesis with the goal of tapping sunlight as a source for covering the energy needs of the future. Researchers from Ulm have now developed an artificial leaf based on a manganese-vanadium oxide catalyst which can effectively carry out the critical photocatalytic reaction of splitting water molecules into hydrogen ions and molecular oxygen.
A team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Tilman Lamparter from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT is investigating how the absorption of light alters the three-dimensional structure of phytochrome molecules and how this effects the behaviour of plantcells. The researchers use bacteria with phytochromes that have largely unknown functions.
All multicellular organisms including plants produce hormones. One of the hormones plants produce is the phytohormone jasmonic acid which has for a long time mainly been known as a second messenger substance that is released when plants are attacked by pathogens. Some years ago Dr. Michael Riemann from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT discovered that jasmonic acid acts as a major growth regulator of phytochrome-mediated responses in plant seedlings.