Agricultural biochemistry and physiology of medicinal plants

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The teaching aims to provide students with basic knowledge of the main biochemical and physiological processes in higher plants, addressing aspects related to plant primary and secondary metabolism, to plant physiology and to plant-environment interactions. These topics are discussed in relation to the productivity and quality of medicinal plants.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the teaching, students will have to know the fundamental biochemical processes related to plant physiology and to adaptation of plant to the environment. Students will have to be able to recognize the main agro-environmental factors that determine plant productivity, and to understand how these factors can influence the content of metabolites of interest in medicinal plants. Students will have to acquire basic criteria for evaluating the sustainability of production and the quality of medicinal plants.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
WATER AND SOLUTE TRANSPORT IN PLANT - Introduction: autotrophy in higher plants. The structure and properties of water. The concept of water potential and cell-water relations in plant. The water balance of plants. Water absorption by roots. Water transport through the xylem. Leaf transpiration. Mineral nutrition. Macro- and micro- nutrients. The concept of rhizosphere and soil-plant-microbe interactions. Solute transport. Chemical potential. Membrane transport processes, passive and active transports. Kinetic properties of transport proteins.
PHOTOSYNTHESIS IN HIGHER PLANTS - Chemical-physical properties of light. Photosynthetic pigments. Organization of the photosynthetic apparatus. The photosynthetic light reactions. Roles of photosystems I and I, cytochrome membrane complexes, electron and proton transfer systems. The photophosphorylation mechanism. Repair and regulation of the photosynthetic machinery. The Calvin cycle. Photorespiration. C4 carbon cycle. Crassulacean acid metabolism. Physiological and ecological considerations about photosynthesis.
PLANT NUTRITIONAL STATUS: PHOTOSYNTHATE DISTRIBUTION AND MINERAL NUTRITION - Synthesis of starch and sucrose. Translocation in the phloem. Photosynthate allocation and partitioning. Nitrate and ammonium assimilation. Biological nitrogen fixation. Sulfur assimilation. Summary of amino acid metabolism. The shikimate pathway. Biochemical roles of phosphate, cation macronutrients and micronutrients. Plant acquisition of iron.
INSIGHTS ON PLANT PRIMARY METABOLISM AND PLANT RESPONSES TO LIGHT - Respiration and lipid metabolism in plants. The glyoxylate cycle. Gluconeogenesis in plant. Seed germination. Plant responses to blue-light. Stomatal movements. Plant responses to red-light. The phytochrome, circadian rhythms, and flowering.
PLANT GROWTH REGULATORS AND STRESS PHYSIOLOGY - Physiological aspects and actions of plant growth regulators. Auxins. Cytokinins. Gibberellins. Ethylene. Abscisic acid. Stress physiology: water deficit and salt stress, heat stress and chilling injury, oxygen deficiency.
PLANT SECONDARY METABOLISM - Eco-physiological aspects of secondary metabolism: defence and communication. Biosynthetic pathways and physiological functions of terpenes. Biosynthesis and physiological roles of phenolic compounds (lignin, coumarins, flavonoids, phytoalexins and tannins). Biosynthesis and physiological roles of nitrogen-containing compounds (alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, and nonprotein amino acids). Experimental strategies to improve secondary metabolite production.
Prerequisites for admission
Information related to the propedeutical courses are described in the Programme description.
Prescribed foundation courses:
- General and inorganic chemistry
- Plant biology and pharmaceutical botany
- Organic chemistry
Teaching methods
Classroom lectures.
Teaching Resources
- Lectures provided by the teacher (PDF files in ARIEL).
- Reference books:
1) Taiz L., Zeiger E. Møller I.M., Murphy A. Elementi di Fisiologia Vegetale. 2016. Piccin Nuova Libraria. ISBN: 978-88-299-2787-6.
2) Rascio N. Elementi di Fisiologia Vegetale - II edizione. 2017. EdiSES. ISBN: 978-88-7959-9207.
Additional bibliography:
- Taiz L., Zeiger E. Møller I.M.. Plant Physiology, Fifth Edition. - 2010. Sinauer Associates. ISBN: 978-08-7893-8667.
- Catizone P., Barbanti L., Marotti I., Dinelli G. Produzione ed impiego delle piante officinali. 2013. Pàtron Editore. ISBN: 978-88-555-3233-4.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Student learning is evaluated by mean of an oral test, through 4-6 open questions on different topics of the teaching program. The grading of the exam is based on the accuracy of the answers, the use of correct terminology, the in-depth level of the study, and on the abilities of the students to elaborate the acquired knowledge in applicative contexts.
The exam grading is expressed in 30/30.
AGR/13 - AGRICULTURAL CHEMISTRY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 48 hours
Professor: Prinsi Bhakti
Tuesday 14:00 - 17:00. Friday 14:00 - 16:00. Other days by appointment.
Office - Building 9 (Floor 1)