Laboratories and faculty

Plant Metabolic Regulation

Prof. Demura Assoc prof. Kato
Associate Professor
Assistant Professor
Tadashi KUNIEDA, Miyuki NAKATA, Satoru TSUGAWA
Labs HP

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 from 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-DOMAIN7), 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).

Fig. 1
Fig. 1 VND7 acts as a key regulator of xylem vessel differentiation. Our lab has established the xylem vessel cell differentiation system by the activation of VND7 function in plant cells.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2 Moss Physcomitrella patens ppvns mutants, knockout mutants for VND-homologous genes, showed the malformation of hydroids (h) in stems, thus leading to decreased water transport activity accompanied wilting phenotype under semi-dry conditions. In addition, the stereids cells (s), the supporting cells in the moss, in leaves showed the impaired thickening of cell wall.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3 Generation of transgenic poplars to improve woody biomass.
Fig. 4
Fig. 4 Development of High-efficient expression system of transgenes


  1. Ohtani M. et al., Curr. Opin. Biotech, 56, 82-87, 2019
  2. Takenaka Y. et al., Plant Cell, 30, 2663-2676, 2018
  3. Yamasaki S. et al., Plant Biotechnol., 35, 365-373, 2018
  4. Ohtani M. Front. Plant Sci., 8, 2184, 2018
  5. Tan T. et al., Plant Physiol, 176, 773-789, 2018
  6. Noguchi M. et al., Plant Biotechnol, 35, 31-37, 2018
  7. Ueno D. et al., J Biosci Bioeng, 125, 723-728, 2018
  8. Ohtani M. et al., Plant Signal Behav, 13, e1428512, 2018
  9. Kawabe H. et al., Plant Cell Physiol, 59, 17-29, 2018
  10. Yamasaki al., J Biosci Bioeng, 125, 124-130, 2018
  11. Bowman J.L. et al., Cell, 171, 287-304, 2017
  12. Ohtani M. et al., Plant Biotechnol, 34, 203-206, 2017
  13. Yu X. et al., J Plant Res, 130, 929-940, 2017
  14. Ohtani M., J Plant Res, 130, 57-66, 2017
  15. Yu X. et al., Mol Breed, 37, 57, 2017
  16. Ohtani M. et al., J Exp Bot, 68, 17-26, 2017
  17. Ohtani M. et al., Plant Physiol, 172, 1612-1624, 2016
  18. Okubo-Kurihara E. et al., Sci Rep 6, 34602, 2016
  19. Song X. et al., Front Plant Sci, 7, 612, 2016
  20. Hotta T. et al., Plant Physiol, 170, 1189-1205, 2016
  21. Watanabe Y. et al., Science, 350, 198-203, 2015
  22. Limkul J. et al., Plant Sci, 240, 41-49, 2015
  23. Yamasaki S. et al., Plant Cell Physiol, 56, 2169-2180, 2015
  24. Rejab NA. et al., Plant Biotechnol, 32, 343-347, 2015
  25. Endo H. et al., Plant Cell Physiol, 56, 242-54, 2015
  26. Ohtani M. et al., J Plant Res, 128, 28, 371-80, 2015
  27. Nakano Y. et al., Front Plant Sci, 6, 288, 2015
  28. Ohtani M., J Plant Res, 128, 361-369, 2015
  29. Yamaguchi et al., Plant Biotechnol, 32, 119-123, 2015
  30. Ueda K. et al., J. Biosci Bioeng, 118, 434-440, 2014
  31. Xu B. et al., Science, 343, 1505-1508, 2014
  32. Matsui T. et al., Plant Biotechnol, 31, 191-194, 2014
  33. Matsuura H. et al., Plant Cell Physiol., 54, 474-483, 2013
  34. Ohtani M. et al., Plant Cell, 25, 2056-2069, 2013
  35. Goué N. et al., PCTOC, 115, 223-232, 2013
  36. Ueda K. et al., Plant Cell Physiol., 53, 1481-1491, 2012
  37. Matsui T. et al., Transgenic Res, 20, 735-748, 2011
  38. Ohtani M. et al., Plant J. 67, 499-512, 2011
  39. Yamaguchi M. et al., Plant J, 66, 579-590, 2011
  40. Matsui T. et al., Transgenic Res., 20, 735-748, 2011