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Heike Sederoff



Partners Building III 216


Area(s) of Expertise

Plant Physiology and Metabolic Engineering

Redirecting carbon metabolism to increase yield

Camelina sativa is an excellent oil crop for biofuel production because it grows with little water and fertilizer on marginal land. To improve camelina as a dedicated biofuel plant, we have increased its photosynthetic CO2-fixation rates by modifying CO2 transport, assimilation and allocation and reducing the cost of photorespiraton. To extend its agricultural range, we are improving its stress tolerance against heat and drought. We are currently working on new technologies to modify the plastid genome and introduce a synthetic, RUBISCO-independent CO2 fixation cycle.

Marine microalgae and cyanobacteria

We are focussing on the marine microalgae as a feedstock for bioenergy and as a platform for the production of industrial enzymes or biopharmaceuticals. Our group is developing tools for transformation of algae. We are using several different approaches to optimize lipid and fatty acid production through genetic engineering of metabolic pathways and flux. To identify endogenous regulators of lipid metabolism in Dunaliella, we are analyzing differential gene expression by nextgen sequencing of Dunaliella cultures grown under environmental conditions that modify lipid profiles.

Genomic networks of abiotic stress responses in roots.

Plant root growth and development is a major factor in the adaptation of plants to site, in the establishment of the architecture of the whole plant, and in the plant’s ability to take up, transport and sequester water and nutrients. The direction of primary root growth is guided by the vector of gravity and the plants ability to sense mechanical stress, light quality and direction, and nutrient availability. We have identified the transcriptional networks integrating the response of roots to changes in their orientation (gravity) and mechanical impedance. High-throughput mutant screens, pyrosequencing, cell biology, and microarray technology enabled us to identify key regulators of signaling pathways. We are currently using systems approaches and bioinformatics algorithms to characterize the integration of different directional stimuli into a single growth response on a cellular level. Many of the key factors are themselves regulated by miRNA and siRNA species, which led us to sequencing the entire sRNA population in Arabidopsis roots. We identified many novel sRNAs and miRNAs and are currently characterizing their function in post-transcriptional and translational control. This research has been funded by NASA and utilized the International Space Station (ISS) and the Space Shuttle for the analysis of plant growth under microgravity.

Courses taught:

  • BIT 476/576 Applied Bioinformatics
  • PB 751 Advanced Plant Physiology (Spring)
  • PB  495/595 Innovation in Agricultural Biotechnology (Fall)


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Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of Goettingen, Germany (1993)
M.S., Biochemistry, University of Goettingen, Germany (1990)