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Group Felix Willmund


Global warming with its increased frequency of severe weather scenarios is a tremendous challenge for photosynthetically active organisms and their communities. For example, increased water temperatures of lakes lead to severe threats of phytoplankton communities and a remarkable loss of biodiversity. The increased occurrence of toxic algal blooms is just one alarming extreme that shows how our major basis for drinking water, food, and recreation is jeopardized by global warming. Despite this relevance, little is known about how warming affect the molecular physiology of individual algal species and how phytoplankton achieves temperature acclimation as community. A comprehensive knowledge about such cellular processes is essential for water quality models and future endeavors to counteract ecosystem collapses.

In addition, the past summers drastically showed how Middle Europe will be challenged by more severe heat and drought waves, which will cause substantial annual crop losses. Thus, the targeted design of stress-tolerant crop plants is a major and unavoidable task of modern plant biology in order to face the food demand of an increasing world population. 

These ambitious goals demand for a deep understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying acclimation and the stress response in photosynthetic active species.

Temperature acclimation involves severe reorganization on multiple cellular levels including adapted gene expression and protein synthesis, as well as altered activities of enzyme and whole pathways that leads to changed primary and secondary products. 

For a better understanding of these processes, it is essential to reveal and characterize central players that act as modulators and regulators during acclimation of plant cells.

 Such basic research of these acclimation process lays an important foundation for synthetic biology approaches, that provide conceptionally new approaches for stress resilient (crop)plants and algae.