Plants as autotrophic organisms capture and convert the solar energy, and store or distribute it in various forms of biomolecules to provide us food, medicine, and materials. As their health and productivity impose a great impact on nearly every aspect of human activities, plant science becomes an important and fascinating research field in perspective of achieving sustainability in agriculture and environment. In our lab, we are interested in identifying molecular mechanisms by which plants respond and adapt to a variety of abiotic stresses as well as developing tools or techniques to address fundamental questions in plant biology through innovation. Our research is currently focused on the following topics using Arabidopsis and Nicotiana benthamiana, a close relative of tobacco, as model organisms:
Crosstalk of plant autophagy and phosphate (Pi) homeostasis
Nutrient starvation-induced autophagy is conserved among eukaryotic organisms including higher plants. Although plant autophagy-deficient mutants are not lethal, they display early leaf senescence and reduced seed yield, and exhibit hypersensitivity to various stresses. Compared to the wealth of investigations on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) starvation-induced autophagy, our understanding of the role of autophagy in the maintenance of plant phosphate (Pi) homeostasis and plant adaptation to Pi starvation remains relatively limited. We're currently addressing these key questions: 1) What role does autophagy play in regulation of Pi homeostasis? 2) By which mechanism do plant cells sense Pi limitation and specifically induce the selective autophagy for internal Pi recycling?
Developing molecular tools for protein-protein interaction screening in planta
Searching for novel protein-protein interactions becomes a major and challenging task to elucidate protein functions as well as its regulatory network. Although in planta screening methods, which allow for proper protein modifications and physiologically relevant interaction environment, are potentially more reliable in terms of minimizing unspecific behaviors observed in heterologous systems, only few attempts have been made for establishing library-scale screens in planta. Our research project is aimed to develop a new molecular tool for high-throughput screens of protein-protein interactions in planta, particularly suitable for identification of transporter-interacting proteins.
Improving the performance of Plant Microbial Fuel Cell (PMFC) and MFC as clean energy source
Plant Microbial fuel cell (PMFC) and MFC are sustainable technologies that can produce electrons using plants and microbes. However, low power density and high cost are the two major issues that hamper their development. New design and materials used to build the electrodes as well as the genetic engineering of living organisms are of great potential to enhance the electron transfer. We're currently collaborating with Prof. Han-Yi Chen’s team at Department of Materials Science and Engineering, NTHU, for inventing self-powered devices