Advanced plant cell biotechnology

A.A. 2022/2023
Crediti massimi
Ore totali
BIO/04 BIO/18
Obiettivi formativi
The aim of the course is to discuss the criteria and the methods to design or improve a biotechnological process exploiting plant cells or whole plants to produce biomass or substances of industrial or environmental relevance (e.g. biofuels, oils, detergents, vitamins, starch, sugars, biodegradable polymers). An 'on-site' visit to at least one company or research centre is envisaged to make the students aware about plant biotechnology outside the academic environment.
The course is ideally linked to those dealing with functional genomics and other "-omic" technologies, plant breeding, molecular enzymology, bioinformatics and data analysis.
Risultati apprendimento attesi
Upon completing this course, students will acquire substantial knowledge on metabolic fluxes, on strategies that can be used to modify yield and on the tools available in plant biotechnology to achieve the objectives.
Programma e organizzazione didattica

Edizione unica

Secondo semestre

The course begins with the lectures given by Paolo Pesaresi (covering 3 ECTS points) and will first focus on the technical tools and theoretical basis of plant/algae biotechnological improvements for biofuel or food production. The different constructs for plant and algae genetic engineering together with the molecular basis of Agrobacterium-mediated transformation are discussed. The different elements of expression vectors, including constitutive and inducible promoters, enhancers, reporter genes, replication origin and marker genes, together with the strategies to create marker-free transgenes are described. Then the organisms and the strategies used to produce biofuels of the first, second and third generation are taken into consideration, with several examples of transgenic plants and algae with improved biofuel production capacity. Finally, we will examine plant traits modified by transgenesis or mutagenesis which are already on the market or which are likely to be commercially available in the near future: herbicide tolerance, pest resistance, improved nutritional content...etc.
The part taught by prof. Morandini (covering 3 ECTS points) deals with two fundamental questions of metabolic engineering: 1) which factors control metabolic fluxes and intermediate concentrations and 2) which strategies /targets work better to modify the yields in a certain product. In order to tackle the questions, we shall make use of the tools provided by the Metabolic Control Analysis theory (elasticity, flux and concentration control coefficients). We shall discuss the interplay of supply and demand of metabolic intermediates, as well as the evidence in favour of the so-called 'parallel activation' to increase fluxes and the implications for manipulation strategies. Several case studies (and the relative successes and failures) of plant biotechnology will be discussed, among which the manipulation of starches, sugars, lipids, vitamins, natural pesticides, amino acids, and the inactivation of allergens and toxins.
A substantial background in basic biochemistry, genetics and functional genomics, as normally gained in the bachelor curriculum, is highly recommended. Good mastering of plant biochemistry is helpful but not an absolute requirement.
Metodi didattici
Teaching Mode: classroom lectures (in English) supported by projected material with open discussions on experimental design, data analysis and specific case studies.
Attendance: highly recommended.
Materiale di riferimento
Teaching material (ppt files), background material and key papers are made available through the Ariel website.
Modalità di verifica dell’apprendimento e criteri di valutazione
The examination is oral and consists of several questions on each section of the program. The grade will result from the joint evaluation of each candidate by both instructors. Examples of the examination test/questions are discussed during classes. The two parts of the exam can be sustained separately.
Lectures: 48 ore
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