Outline of Research and Education
Our laboratory engages in research and education pertaining to the biotechnology needed to resolve the issues facing human beings in the 21st century, such as food, environment, and energy. Especially we are exploring the mechanisms of gene expression regulation for woody cell differentiation using omics technology to develop novel biotechnological tools for the establishment of a sustainable society.
Major Research Topics
Molecular mechanism governing xylem cells differentiation.
Xylem functions in conduction of water and minerals throughout the plants, and supports the plant body. One of the features of xylem cells is development of secondary wall structure between plasma membrane and (primary) cell wall. Since woody biomass derived form xylem cells, xylem vessels and fiber cells, is one of important resources of land plant biomass, modifications of molecular mechanisms for xylem cell differentiation should be important strategies to improve plant biomass resources.
We identified a key regulator of the xylem vessel differentiation, Arabidopsis VND7 (Vascular-Related NAC Domain Protein7), which is a plant-specific NAC domain transcription factor (Fig. 1). To understand the molecular mechanism by which xylem vessel formation is regulated, we have been characterizing VND7 and its homologs through various approaches. Recently we investigated the VND-homologous genes of moss Physcomitrella patens, and found that the VND-homologous genes function in the differentiation of water-conducting and supporting cells in the moss (Fig. 2). The VND-based molecular system is thus conserved among current land plants widely, suggesting that our findings can be applied to wide-range land plants to modify woody biomass.
Molecular and cell biological approaches to trees.
We are also conducting genomics, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome studies to reveal the molecular system of plant biomass biosynthesis, using not only model plants but also non-model practical plants. Based on the obtained information, the designed transgenic poplars were generated and tested for the useful trains, such as higher stress tolerance, plant growth, and woody biomass accumulation (Fig. 3). These studies will give us the insights into effective biotechnological strategy to improve the quality and quantity of woody biomass.
High-efficient expression system of transgenes in higher plants.
In order to transcribe foreign genes in plant cells more effectively, we are studying the factors that contribute to transgene-silencing, the relationship between chromatin/ nucleosome structure around the promoter region and gene expression, identification and characterization of matrix the attachment regions, and improvement of transcriptional terminator regions. In addition to increasing transcription, it is important to maximize the amount of protein translated per unit mRNA. Therefore, we are studying about identification and characterization of translational enhancer, effect of context of AUG codon on translation efficiency, translation under stress condition (Fig. 4).
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