Molecular Biology of Primary Producers (MBPP) is a Center of Excellence (CoE) funded by the Academy of Finland (2014-2019). The unique feature of our CoE is an intimate combination of photosynthesis research with modern plant molecular biology research.
The CoE is built on 3 Core Competence Areas, photosynthesis, plant stress and acclimation as well as plant development, represented by the four team leaders and their groups. Turku teams, Academy Prof., Eva-Mari Aro (director of the CoE) and Dr. Esa Tyystjärvi represent multidisciplinary photosynthesis and emerging solarfuels research fields, whereas the Helsinki teams Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi (vice-director of the CoE) and Prof. Yrjö Helariutta focus on signaling in plants during stress and development. The main goal of the CoE is to dissolve the borders between different disciplines in plant biology and to create a holistic picture of how the photoautotrophic organisms communicate with ever changing environment as one entity. Strong basic research in these three different research areas serves as inspiration for new innovations towards sustainable bioenergy production. Another milestone of the CoE is strong integration of 10 talented early career group leaders with particular expertise in research interfaces between the Core Competence Areas.
It is our firm belief that strong investment in interface research areas provides excellent possibilities for a paradigm shift in our understanding of plant function and environmental response, as a single unit, with highly integrated regulatory networks between different cell compartments, ranging from the shoot to the root. Lack of such knowledge has been a major obstacle in efforts to improve plant productivity and stress tolerance.
Photosynthetic organisms varying from small unicellular cyanobacteria to big trees are responsible of producing most of the organic compounds on Earth. These primary producers capture solar energy and use water and atmospheric CO2 to make organic molecules, the building blocks of all living organisms, via the unique process called photosynthesis. Hence, research on primary producers is important to guarantee sufficient food, feed and fuel for the ever-increasing human population, and to combat climate change by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. We have strong research traditions on basic photosynthesis, microalgal and plant sciences, however, focusing on different aspects of primary energy production. Over the decades photosynthetic research has been strongly focused on the photosynthetic apparatus, without taking interactions and crosstalk with the whole cell metabolism into consideration. Similarly, in plant science cell physiology, metabolism and signal transduction were studied separately from photosynthesis, which is an ultimate source of energy and redox equivalents for the whole plant metabolism and biomass. Our FCoE is working toward the ultimate goal of integrating photosynthesis, with whole cell metabolism by gathering under a common umbrella the Turku photosynthetic group and Helsinki plant scientists. This is important for exploiting novel ways for enhanced production of biomass and for developing new and innovative ways for direct conversion of solar energy to bio-based fine chemicals and biofuels.