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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Making Light of Plants Workshop

13th August 2014, 09:00 to 15th August 2014, 17:00, Whitehead Room, Biological Sciences

This is a two-day workshop and is by invitation only. For further information please contact; Ari Sadanandom (

Higher plants have to cope with the environmental conditions at the place where they germinate and grow. Light is a key signal required for optimising their adaptation and survival. In the dark, a seedling undergoes skotomorphogenesis where it develops long hypocotyl, and apical hook and closed cotyledons. Under light, however, a seedling changes its developmental program to photomorphogenesis, resulting in a short hypocotyl, opened cotyledons, and the build-up of photosynthetic capacity. Plants have evolved multiple specialised photosensory systems to monitor changes in the surrounding light conditions. The photoreceptors Phytochromes regulate all aspects of photomorphogenic development of plants throughout their whole life-cycle including seed germination, seedling development, the shade avoidance response to detect and escape shading by photosynthetically active neighbors, entrainment of the circadian clock and the onset of flowering. Phytochromes have the capacity to steadily and rapidly sense changes in the incident light composition and thus play a key role in the dynamic adaptation of plants. On a molecular level this is achieved by the photoreversible nature of phytochrome chromoproteins. Phytochromesare are able to absorb light efficiently and convert it into a chemical signal that results in physiological changes leading to plant growth and development. It is important to note that, due to the broad, distinct, and partially overlapping absorbance spectra of Phytochromes the entire light spectrum can be monitored by Phytochromes. Hence Phytochromes can be viewed as efficient light capturing devices which can potentially be used to harness solar energy.

Professor Ferenc Nagy from the Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is a world leader in Photobiology. He is a council member of European Molecular Biology (EMBO) organization and has been awarded multiple Howard Hughes fellowships. This IAS program establishes a multidisciplinary project aimed at developing plant photoreceptors as tools for harnessing solar energy and storing it in artificial fuel cells. The program will involve Professor Nagy visiting Durham University in March 2014 and giving an open seminar on the role of Phytochromes in Plant growth and survival. A collaborative workshop on developing plant phortoreceptors as fuel cells involving members from the Department of Physics and Biological and Biomedical Sciences will coincide with Professor Nagy’s visit.

Contact for more information about this event.