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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Menu Logo Principal University of Lorraine

UMR EEF - Forest Ecology and Ecophysiology


Physiodiv focuses on the physiological response of trees to environmental constraints, both under controlled conditions and in comparative plantations. The main constraints are: water availability (drought, hypoxia),  ozone pollution and high temperatures.

Our research aims to understand the physiological processes that are involved during the response to an environmental constraint by integrating several levels of analysis (from molecules to the whole organism). Beyond the study of phenotypic plasticity (at an individual scale), we also consider the genetic diversity (e g differences between genotypes, populations or species). The objective is to investigate tree adaptation to a changing environment.

Main research focuses:
- Water use efficiency and stomata regulation

WUE (Water Use Efficiency) is an ecophysiological trait that corresponds to the plant's capacity to optimize its biomass production with regards to its water loss by transpiration. This trait is determined at the leaf level or/and at the whole plant level and is strongly related to stomatal functioning and to leaf anatomy as well as to photosynthetic capacity.

- Detoxification and regeneration of reducing power

Recurrently fighting against oxidative stress, plants have an arsenal of metabolic defences which is centred on the anti-oxidative capacity of metabolites (ascorbate, glutathione, phenolic compounds). Moreover this arsenal is sustained by the cellular metabolism which is susceptible to regenerate the redox potential, essential to its own functioning. In this context, our research focuses on tree responses to ozone and to drought, in combination or not. Different axes are developed: - anti-oxidant variation under constraints: from gene expression to metabolite; - metabolic modification contributing to regenerate the redox potential (NAD(P)H); - as well as the modification of cellular allocation for carbon and nitrate under ozone constraint or/and drought. Our research aims to gain a better understanding of tree responses to oxidative stress and to define some key metabolic markers for tolerance/sensitivity to ozone and drought.

- Biophysical and molecular controls of root growth

In the soil, resources are evenly distributed both in space and time. The plasticity of root growth enables soil exploration and resource foraging. The molecular and cellular processes underpinning how environmental cues are transmitted into root growth responses are overlooked, especially in trees. In the lab, in vivo imaging was developed under infra-red illumination and at a high temporal frequency and a deep spatial resolution to quantify the growth of poplar roots (cultivated in hydroponics or in vitro). We are currently studying the response of growth components (namely cell division and cell elongation) to environmental stimuli (osmotic stress and mechanical impedance) through kinematics analysis (study of dynamics of physical motion without reference to the forces resulting in the movement and the deformation). Meanwhile, the transcriptome remodelling in the root apex is assessed separately in the division zone and in the elongation zone of the root (RNAseq). Our purpose is to decipher the crosstalk between the “growth” and the “drought signaling” molecular pathways taking into account both cell division and cell elongation. The ultimate goal is to understand how cell division and cell elongation are regulated to determine their respective importance during environmentally-induced modulation of root growth.

- Biosynthesis and biochemistry of cell-wall compounds and biochemistry of polysaccharide components

Wood is an important economic resource valued by numerous industries for its varied uses, particularly as feedstock for bio-energy fuel.  Biosynthesis of the major wood components namely cellulose and lignin, is highly controlled during the tree development and in response to the environment especially in the context of climate changes.  Since wood biomass production is increased by elevated CO2 levels and decreased by high ozone levels, it is particularly important to assess the impact these two gases have on wood formation mechanisms.

The aim of this topic is to understand the cellular mechanisms that control the biosynthesis of cellulose and lignin in poplar wood subjected to stress conditions. Our research focuses on the regulation of genes involved in cellulose and lignin biosynthesis and the distribution of carbon supply between these two polymers in response to stress.

Our research focuses are developed within targeted or integrative projects that rely on specific equipments and infrastructures:

-        Molecular biology and Biochemistry (Real-time PCR, transcriptome analysis by Affymetrix chips or RNA-sequencing)

-        Leaf gas exchange and Portable leaf gas chambers (Licor 6400, 6200, porometer Decagon)

-        Analytical chemistry (isotope mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, infrared spectrometry and Raman, these equipments being hosted on the functional ecology plateform, PTEF)

-        MEB, STEM and micro-analysis X hosted on the functional ecology plateform, PTEF)

-        Greenhouses with temperature regulation and irrigating robots

-        Phytotron with ozone fumigation and high CO2

-        Kinematics by in vivo imaging under infra red illumination