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Helmut Kirchhoff

Ph.D. 1998, University of Münster, Germany
Helmut Kirchhoff
Professor, IBC 509-335-3304 Plant Sciences Building 1772 NE Stadium Way 

Research Interests

Plants are integrated in a complex environment that fluctuate both randomly and periodically on very different time scales. Photosynthetic energy conversion must compensate for these changes to maintain energetic homeostasis for the cell. Failure to do this results either in reduced performance of energy transformation and consequently a decrease in yield and fitness of plants or severe damage by toxic photosynthetic side products that eventually lead to cell death. These potential problems are tackled by a battery of highly regulated optimization, protection, and repair mechanisms. Most of these mechanisms are realized in the photosynthetic thylakoid membranes that harbor the sophisticated structured nano-machines responsible for biological energy conversion. Our research aims to understand the mechanisms that optimize, protect, and maintain the photosynthetic machinery on the molecular, supramolecular, and whole membrane level. Accomplishment of these aims will lead to insights on how plants survive in a challenging environment and can help to find new strategies to solve our global food and energy problems. My group is working on three main projects areas (see lab homepage for details):

  1. Molecular Architecture and Dynamics of Photosynthetic Membranes
    • The Janus character of photosynthetic membranes
    • Molecular architecture of the thylakoid lumen
    • How membrane lipids determine protein conformation and function
    • Protein mobility in C4 plants
  2. Photosynthesis under Stress
    • PSII repair cycle
    • Drought resistance in resurrection plants
  3. New Techniques for Photosynthesis Research
    • Phenomics
    • New dyes for high-resolution light microscopy

Phenomics Website