Identification, elucidation and validation of genes underlying Arabidopsis photosynthesis QTLs


Photosynthesis is the foundation of plant productivity. Increased photosynthesis will lead to increased CO2 fixation, and consequently higher carbohydrate production and an increased potential for a higher harvest index. However, photosynthesis is an extremely difficult trait for breeding due to its dynamic character as well its physiological and genetic complexity. Advanced developments in plant phenotyping now allow detailed and high-throughput (HTP) measurements of photosynthesis represented as ΦPSII (photosynthesis efficiency) and other growth parameters. Following HTP photosynthesis phenotyping, genome wide association studies (GWAS) have been performed in our lab using natural population of 352 Arabidopsis accessions, that were grown under various abiotic stress conditions: low phosphate nutrition, low nitrate nutrition, fluctuations in temperature, and fluctuations in irradiance. Numerous quantitative trait loci (QTLs) have been identified but so far they remained largely unexplored. In this project, I will used the combined datasets to identify common photosynthesis QTLs/genes that are responsive to various conditions.


The aim of this project will be to identify, validate and functionally characterize genes contributing to natural variation for photosynthetic traits in Arabidopsis – especially those linked to common stress tolerance responses.



Based on a combined analysis of all existing photosynthesis phenotyping data, candidate genes will be selected according to an established pipeline. Screening a large collection of mutants for these candidates, available from public Arabidopsis seed stocks, will narrow down the list of candidate genes with a role in photosynthesis. Confirmation of the allelic effect will be performed by complementation tests in which mutants are either crossed with wild-type accessions with specified allelic differences, or through transgenic/CRISPR-Cas9 approaches. Depending on the nature of the identified genes, functional analysis will clarify the role of the respective gene involved in the photosynthetic response.

Student Opportunities

We are open to applications for thesis projects from December on! We have different thesis topics available, including projects with Molecular Techniques, GWAS and T-DNA screening.

  • Thesis projects are available from December 2019 on
  • Are you interested? Contact