Successful plant biology research at the university 25. Aug. 2022

The Plant Cell and Developmental Biology Research Group of Department of Botany at Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Debrecen focuses primarily on the internal dynamics of plant cells. This feature is essential for the cells to respond quickly to changes in the environment, whether biotic (e.g., pathogens) or abiotic (e.g., cold and heat and water shortage) factors.

“We tend to think that plant cells are static, yet the components of plant cells are indeed very dynamic; much more so than those in animal or human cells. They respond quickly to changes in the environment, such as drought and temperature changes, while they are busily restoring tissue damage. We like to say that a plant cell cannot escape if an insect wants to chew it, but it can react very quickly inside itself. That is the topic of our Nature’s World journal article, which won first prize in the essay competition held on the occasion of Year of Plant Health last year,” said Associate Professor Csaba Máthé, Head of the Plant Cell Research and Developmental Biology Group of the Department of Botany at FST, UD, to

Modern methods of cell biology have made it possible to reveal the internal dynamics of cells in high resolution and with high accuracy. These features ensure the cells’ ability to fight external stresses and pathogens. Molecular, biochemical, and structural research efforts together allow for a better understanding of plants while they can also help them survive the consequences of climate change, extreme temperatures and reduced precipitation, among others. These research projects could open up new vistas in developing resistant cultivars. The textbook Plant Cell Biology, edited by Csaba Máthé, primarily presents the specific structure and function of a plant cell. At the same time, it also summarizes the latest research findings mentioned above.

“Although the function of the plant cells is also discussed in the discipline of plant physiology, textbooks and comprehensive manuals on this topic at the cellular level have not actually been written in Hungary in recent years. This is the reason why we decided to write a book that contains all the information one needs to know about plant cells. This publication can be useful not only for college students, but also for experts and professionals already working in this field. That is exactly the reason why we considered it important to show how the knowledge gained about the functioning of cells can be used in practice, for example, to produce more resistant plants,” said Csaba Máthé.

Another investigation project undertaken by the research group may turn out to be important even from the point of view of space research.

“Among other things, we investigated the phenomenon called gravitropism response of plants. Quite simply, the root knows that it is growing down and the shoot knows that it is growing upward. Thus, we examined why the plant knew this, and what the underlying mechanism was. Based on this, we can find out, for example, how plants react to gravity and what molecular mechanisms are triggered in them. At several locations in the world, research is beginning to study the effects of reduced gravitational force and the possibilities of altering plant responses. This field of research could have a number of practical uses, for example, in how to grow plants on board a space station,” PhD student Csongor Freytag explained.

Csongor Freytag published the findings of the research project in the journal Chemosphere (IF 8,9, D1). As for his first-author paper, he won the 2021 Hungarian Plant Physiology Prize awarded by the foundation Scientia Amabilis. This award is given to young researchers working in the field of plant biology who, in the given year, produce an outstanding first or corresponding author publication.

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