Plant UV Research

UV-Research in the Plant Stress Biology group

What is UV radiation?

Solar UV-B radiation (280 – 315 nm) has long been recognized causing rather diverse environmental impacts. UV-B mediated-damage (sunburn) and degenerative reactions have been widely reported, giving UV-B a “bit of a bad press”. However, the environmental role of UV-B radiation is far broader. For example, UV photons comprise positional cues for pollinating insects, guide foraging animals such as reindeers, facilitating mate-choice for organisms as diverse as spiders and birds, in conjunction with UV absorbing and reflecting pigments in the skins of various organisms.

Similarly in plants, UV-B can cause damage in the shape of growth retardation, macroscopic damage and oxidative stress, but also trigger very specific regulatory changes in plant morphology and metabolite accumulation. Damaging effects are often barely measurable, and therefore the emphasis in plant UV-biology has shifted from damage and stress to information and specific regulation. This shift was much accelerated by the discovery of a specific plant UV-B photoreceptor (UVR8) and downstream signalling components. We now know that UV-B can alter in a specific manner plant metabolites in the absence of damage and/or growth retardation. Some of the changes UV-induced in metabolites are of great interest because these metabolites are nutraceuticals and/or pharmaceuticals with relevance for human nutrition. Thus, UV-B is a potentially very interesting tool to increase health-giving properties of some plant products.

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Our UV Research

The Jansen group has been involved in plant UV-B research for a long period, focussing especially on stress and acclimation responses at the physiological and/or whole plant level. Below, you will find some of our activities.

Educational material on plant UV-responses

All you wanted to know about UV radiation and plants” (1MB) is an educational text on plant UV-responses, written by Drs Alenka Gabersčik (Slovenia), Alan Jones (UK) and Marcel Jansen (Ireland). The text is geared towards the upper years of secondary schools.

SFI-funded UV-research at UCC

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Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has generously funded plant-UV research in the Jansen-group. This project aims to identify physiological, regulatory mechanisms that control “dwarfed” growth of plants under UV-B radiation. The project will also focus on the ecological advantages and/or yield costs associated with such growth. It has been proposed that a UV-specific signalling pathway and the plant-hormone auxin control dwarfed growth. We focus our investigation on crosstalk between UV-induced changes in auxin and accumulated UV-screening pigments. This project generates new insights in fundamental mechanisms of plant growth in a changed climate and/or under stress, and indicates the potential to develop more robust, stress-tolerant plants, which has substantial commercial relevance.

UV4Plants

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UV4Plants is an international society of plant UV-researchers. Our aim is “to promote and foster a culture of research-excellence and good practice in Plant UV Research through the organisation of innovative events in research, public engagement and education”. For example, we are organising an international two-day conference on plant UV-biology, which will take place in Hungary in May 2016.
In conjunction with the conference we are organising a training school in Pertinent Methodologies. See the UV4Plants website for the conference circular for more details on both the conference and the training school.

Finally, we have recently released the first issue of the UV4Plants Bulletin.

New members to UV4Plants are always welcome. For more information check out the UV4Plants website, or contact the president Marcel Jansen (m.jansen[at]ucc.ie), or the membership secretary (secretary[at]uv4plants.org) for details.

UV4Quality

Large amounts of fruits and vegetables in Ireland are raised in either glasshouses or poly-tunnels, in which the UV component of sunlight is lacking. This can result in stragglier, more vulnerable plants with lower nutritional value, especially in the winter months. Low doses of supplementary ultraviolet light can compensate for this by regulating plant morphogenesis and metabolism via dedicated UV-B photoreceptors. The UV4Quality project explores potential UV regulation of the quality of greenhouse-grown products, in collaboration with partners from the herb and transplant industry.

The project is led by Prof Strid (Örebro, Sweden).
More information can be found at the UV4Quality website.

International partners in the UV4Quality project are the groups of:

Prof. Jansen welcomes enquiries from Irish growers who are interested in further developing the “Irish perspective” of UV-exploitation in plant quality.