Dr. Victoria Nikiforova / Prof. Dr. Lothar Willmitzer
To effectively react to perturbation, complex living systems evolve processing of information through interlaced networks of mutual influences between its simple elements, like transcripts, proteins, metabolites.
The group studies wiring for information processing in plants in steady state and in response to e.g. nutritional perturbation, and its evolution. Comparative analysis of network topologies is targeted on identification of the prime controllers in these processes. Special emphasis is placed on metabolite-dependent coordination of gene expression.
Our group works on integration of biological data to get system-oriented understanding of the ways and consequences of information processing in living systems in response to perturbation. In particular, we are looking for common regulations of response control in model plant species. We plan further to expand investigation of general controllers by trying the regulations found in higher plants to other organisms of various evolutionary distance. In this context, we are also thinking of distinguishing features between living and technogenic information systems.
As a starting point in our studies, we analyse plants under nutrient stresses. The understanding of how plants respond to changes in their environment is still like a puzzle: we know some sets of reacting genes, certain marker metabolites, enzymatic activities, and in some cases, common or specific regulators. We are trying to aggregate this mosaic knowledge and then to extract generalized mechanisms of system adjustments in response to environmental changes.
To accomplish this, we are attempting to integrate biological data from various sources, taking advantage of having a deeper insight into a number of processes in plants obtained by various groups in our Institute and having access to quickly expanding biological databases.
We are also conducting experiments designed to fill in missing pieces of the puzzle and to test found regulations for reliability. Some experiments require novel approaches; for example, we have developed a new hydroculture-based procedure allowing us to grow non-stressed seedlings of Arabidopsis plants.