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Plant Signaling for the adaptation to their environment

Published on 28 August 2019
Today, humanity faces a major dilemma :
  1. The plant production must increase to feed a raising population and to support increasing industrial uses like biofuel and green chemistry;
  2. The exploitation of natural resources (like water and mines rocks) to grow crops must be reduced.

Alarmingly, the current climate change will even further tighten these conflicting issues. 

Plants are autotrophic organisms whose growth is based on combining CO2 with inorganic elements retrieved in the environment. As part of the plant nutrition, mineral nutrients are taken up from soil through water fluxes into their roots.  Optimal growth requests molecular signalling, operating from cellular to whole plant levels, to coordinate the adequacy of absorption with metabolic demand. The aim of the SAVE team is to understand the mechanisms of water fluxes and nutrients absorption and signalling.

Both water stress and phosphate deficiency reduce plant growth. Our studies on Arabidopsis revealed that part of this reduced growth is not explained only by a lower metabolic activity: this is also an active, growth repression response of plants facing adverse conditions. Our researches aim at identifying the molecular events and signalling cascades underlying these responses, from the sensing of these stresses to the final growth processes.

Applications of our researches are foreseen in crops improvement to resist drought and reduced fertilizers (phosphate) in order to extend the range of arable lands that can be used for crops and to find new solutions for more sustainable use of limited soil nutrients. Our research has also potential applications for developing plants with increased (phytoextraction) or reduced levels (safe-food) of accumulation of metallic pollutants (arsenate, caesium, cadmium…).


The complementarity of our different expertise (genetics, molecular and cellular biology, electrophysiology, physiology) is one of the assets of the SAVE team, allowing multidisciplinary projects with numerous private and academic partners in Europe (United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Switzerland), Asia (Japan, China), United States, Australia. In this respect we recently (2017) created an international French-Chinese laboratory with the team of Pr D. Liu located at the University of Tsinghua.

Mutants whose root growth is no more inhibited by a lack of phosphate. Svistoonoff et al., 2007 Nature Genetics ; Balzergue et al., 2017 Nature Com.

Identification of mutants improving water stress tolerance.

Head of Laboratory 
Laurent Nussaume
CEA Cadarache
Tel : 04 42 25 31 52