The aim of the course is to contribute to the training of postgraduate graduates in order to provide them with a full understanding of the mechanisms by which plants use and optimize the capture of sunlight to implement the photosynthetic process. The lessons will provide the knowledge background that will allow students to understand why plants, during the course of their evolution, have had the need to optimize the processes for the capture and use of light to optimize the efficiency of the photosynthetic process, but also to avoid any damage caused by irradiations that are too intense. The student will learn that the plants' optimization of the sunlight's capture has become necessary due to their sessile nature. It will then be explained that the impossibility in "moving" has given plants the evolutionary thrust necessary for the development of the sophisticated molecular mechanisms capable of perceiving and decoding the different information related to light such as quantity, quality, and direction. The fundamental concepts of the discipline will be presented through the presentation of consolidated models but they will also be integrated by new and sometimes contradictory discoveries.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, the student will acquire: Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms by which plants perceive the different wavelengths of sunlight through specific photoreceptors. Understanding of the mechanisms used to perceive the continuous variations in the spectrum and intensity of light. Understanding of the mechanisms by which plants measure the length of the day and its effects on the perception of seasonality. Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying the biogenesis of chloroplasts. Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that allow the chloroplast to adapt to environmental conditions. Strategies to be used in the second green revolution to improve photosynthesis performance.
Lesson period: First semester
(In case of multiple editions, please check the period, as it may vary)
Outline of physical mechanisms underlying the absorption of light; Light signal transduction; Plant photoreceptors: phytochromes, cryptochromes, and phototropins; Stomatal biology and mechanisms involved in the light-mediated regulation of their aperture; Phototropisms; Shade avoidance; Plant photomorphogenesis: the role of light and its interaction with photoreceptors in plant development; Circadian rhythm, photoperiodism, and chloroplast to nucleus communication; Photosynthesis, photorespiration, and adaptation of the CO2 fixation mechanisms; Series of seminars aimed at presenting how other non-plant organisms perceive and interact with natural light.
Prerequisites for admission
Good knowledge of organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, molecular and cell biology of plants is highly recommended.
The lectures will have a classical format with lessons given by the teachers by using powerpoint slides.
During the lectures, the students will be encouraged to actively participate with questions and comments related to the considered subjects.
The use of innovative tools such as videos, online seminars will be also adopted.
Course attendance is highly recommended.
The book used as a reference is the Taiz, Zeiger, Moller, Murphy. Plant Physiology and Development.
All the powerpoint material used for the lectures will be made available to the students at the dedicated Ariel website.
The reading of selected research papers and reviews will be suggested to the students at every lecture and they will be made available through the Ariel website.
Assessment methods and Criteria
For each part of the teaching, students will have to critically analyze, in the form of an oral presentation, a scientific paper chosen among the ones made available by the teachers. The presentation, consisting of a short introduction of the biological problem, and the critical analysis of the experiments reported in the paper/s, will be followed by a discussion with the teacher/s on the mechanisms analyzed in the research article and during the course.
The students will be also evaluated based on the theoretical knowledge of the different topics presented during the teaching.
Teachers will raise specific questions at a dedicated test session, or at the time of the article presentation.
The final grade will be defined as the average of the two parts' grades (one for each teacher), and by common agreement by both teachers on the final result.