Plant physiology and biochemistry

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Aims of the course are to fornish tool for understanding the basic biochemical and physiological processes involved in the life cycle of plants with particular regards for the aspects establishing crop yield and adaptation to biotic stress and/or resources scarcity.
Expected learning outcomes
The student other than to known both the biochemical and physiological basis of plant function and crop yield will be able to understand how genetic and environmental factors can affect these factors. Mainly, he/she will be able to identify biochemical and physiological bottle-necks of quali- and quantitative yield traits in a view of sustainable and low-input agriculture.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Course syllabus
Amino acids. Protein: structures and functions - Carbohydrates: mono- and polysaccharides. Lipids. Nucleotides.
Bioenergetics and thermodynamics - Phosphoryl group Transfers and ATP - Biological oxidation-reduction reactions.
Enzyme catalysis and specificity - Enzyme kinetics - Regulation of enzymes activity.
Glycolysis - Pentose Phosphate Pathway - Citric acid cycle. Fatty acid catabolism - Electron-transfer reactions in mitochondria - Oxidative Phosphorylation.
Water chemical-physical properties. Water potential components. Root water absorption and xylem translocation. Plant transpiration: driving forces; stomatal closure. Plant water balance.
Chemistry and physiology of photosynthetic pigments - Pigment light excitation and de-excitation - Photosynthetic units: photosystem I and photosystem II - Photosynthetic electron flow and photophosphorylation - Calvin cycle - Photorespiration - C3, C4 and CAM pathways for carbon dioxide fixation - Eco-physiological aspects of photosynthesis.
Gluconeogenesis - Sucrose and starch biosynthesis - Nitrogen and sulphur reductive assimilations - Amino acids and reserve proteins biosynthesis - Lipids biosynthesis - Photosynthate allocation within plant - Phloem sucrose loading and unloading - Sink-source relationships in plants.
Physiological function of essential macro- and micro-nutrients. Solutes electrochemical potential. Nutrient root uptake and their systemic translocation. Thermodynamic, kinetic and molecular aspects of transmembrane solute transport. Solute permeases.
PHOTOMORPHOGENESIS - The photoreceptor systems. Photoperiodism: brief introduction.
HORMONAL PLANT SYSTEM - Plant hormones and plant growth regulators. Hormonal signalling pathways: brief introduction.
Prerequisites for admission
Adequate knowledge and skills of general and organic chemistry, plant biology as well as mathematics and physics acquired in the first-year basic courses are required.
Teaching methods
The course consists exclusively of frontal lessons. In the presentation of the various contents, a method is adopted which, starting from the description of a characteristic and / or a biological phenomenon, stimulates the students, through inductive procedures, to the deduction and formalization of the underlying biochemical and physiological mechanisms. Students are progressively guided in the acquisition of this ability also through moments of discussion involving the whole class group.
The individual lessons are accompanied by a series of slides taken from some of the recommended texts. The material used in the classroom is made available to students
Teaching Resources
D. L. Nelson, M. M. Cox - Lehninger. Principles of Biochemistry, 7th Edition - Macmillan Learning
L. Taiz, E. Zeiger, I. M. Møller - Fundamentals of Plant Physiology - Oxford University Press
Assessment methods and Criteria
Two intermediate written tests and a final oral test are planned. The two written tests will take place, the first one during the lesson break scheduled during the first semester (November 11th-15th 2019) and the second one on the first day of lesson after the New Year's Holidays (January 8th, 2020).
The two written tests consist in five or three open questions (the former one and the latter one, respectively, related to topics covered in the lessons held during the two reference time periods. The understanding of the topics and concepts covered, the ability to expose them in synthetic and clear manner also using appropriate graphic representations and schemes, as well as the ability to integrate them within the plant biology knowledge previously acquired (pre-requisites) are assessed. The final oral exam will focus in part (at least one question, maximum two) on the topics covered in the classroom after the second written test, but will also include a discussion, led by the teacher by using a problem-solving methodology, centered on one of the most relevant topics covered in the course.
The final score is the average of the three partial scores obtained in the two written tests and in the final oral test. However, students willing to do so will be allowed to face only the final oral examination, that in this case will consist of at least three questions on the topics covered in the entire course
AGR/13 - AGRICULTURAL CHEMISTRY - University credits: 8
Lessons: 64 hours
Every day (phone or e-mail appointment)
Office at Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences