88848 - Plant Interactions with Global Change

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will have acquired knowledge on the main morphological, physiological and molecular responses of higher plants to environmental cues and the basic mechanisms of tolerance and adaptation to adverse conditions. They will learn about how plants contribute to air quality by the release of biotic particulates and by interfering with air pollutants derived from anthropogenic activities. Due to changes in plant distribution in relation to climate change, students shall become acquainted with the contribution of alien species to the release of such biotic particulates. Students will also learn about methods employed in aerobiology for the quantitative and qualitative assessment of pollen and other air-borne allergens. They will gain the capacity to interpret data and critically read scientific literature relating to this topic.

Course contents


Modulo 1 Role of native and alien plants on air quality (3 CFU)

Synthetic description of plant anatomy and cytology. The adaptive strategies of plants to different environmental conditions. Alien plants. Aerobiology. Pollen and pollination. Main airborne bio-allergens: pollens and fungi. Food allergens of plant origin and respiratory allergens of pollen origin. Role of plants as organisms able to monitor the environmental quality and to influence it through the release of aero-dispersed biological material such as pollens. Possible use of plants in environmental phytoremediation


Modulo 2. Plant resilience to environmental stress (3 CFU) = 24 ore

The course will deal with the main responses of higher plants to environmental cues and basic mechanisms of tolerance and adaptation to adverse conditions.

  1. Introduction to plants and abiotic stress factors associated with climate change.
  2. Overview of abiotic stress responses in plants at various levels: morphological, physiological, biochemical, and molecular.
  3. The role of compatible solutes in preventing damage under stress conditions.
  4. Oxidative stress, ROS homeostasis, and the importance of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants.
  5. Responses and management of salinity stress in plants.
  6. Symbiotic interactions between plants and soil microorganisms under environmental stress.
  7. Plant hormones: definition, classes, modes of action and involvement in abiotic stress.
  8. Gene expression and environmental changes
  9. Involvement of microRNAs, transcription factors, and epigenetic changes in stress responses.
  10. Abiotic stress and secondary metabolites, including VOCs.


Articles in international magazines

Teaching methods


Assessment methods

Multiple choice test with 5 questions; each question contains 4 answers, among which the student must select the correct one (s); then follows a question about the program


Written presentation based on recent scientific article inherent to course topics and oral discussion

Teaching tools

Power point lessons will be available online -IOL

Office hours

See the website of Stefano Del Duca

See the website of Stefania Biondi