90814 - Plant Biotechnology for Bioenergy Production

Course Unit Page


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

Zero hunger Affordable and clean energy

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the lectures, the student acquires current and detailed knowledge on the molecular mechanisms underlying that part of plant physiology mainly subjected to biotechnological applications. Through the study of the most recent biotechnological applications in the plant field, the course provides the knowledge to develop a critical and in-depth view of the possibilities offered by the new technologies for the improvement of plant productivity.

Course contents

  • Introduction. Why study molecular plant physiology and its biotechnological applications? Some examples: plants and chemical energy production; plants and the production of bioactive molecules
  • The development of plant biotechnologies. Comparative study of genomes. Arabidopsis thaliana as a model species in the study of plant genomes. The non-nuclear genome of the plastids. Knowledge Transfer: from model to non-model species. Bioinformatics tools for the scientific community.
  • Transformation of plant genomes: methodologies and applications. Transformation of the nuclear genome and of the plastid genome (transplantomics): advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches. Methods of transformation: biolistic method (particle gun) and Agrobacterium. Characteristics of constructs for transgenesis. Constitutive, inducible and tissue-specific promoters. Selection markers and reporter genes. Examples of transgenic plants: 1) plants resistant to herbicides (soybean Rounup Ready); 2) resistant to insects (Bt-corn); 3) production of antibiotics
  • Plant Biotechnology for energy production. Primary carbon metabolism. Photosynthesis: from light to the production of new biomass. How to improve the conversion of light energy into biomass. Production of bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass. Production of biodiesel from oil seeds. Genetic manipulation of the starch structure: from resistant starch to bioplastic.


Original publications and reviews will be provided during the course.

The teaching material (e.g. lesson slides and links to suggested publications) can also be downloaded on the Virtuale - University of Bologna through username and password.


Any in-depth texts:

  • Rascio N (2017) Elementi di Fisiologia vegetale. EdiSES
  • Sussex, IM (2008) The Scientific Roots of Modern Plant Biotechnology. Plant Cell. 20(5):1189–1198. doi: 10.1105/tpc.108.058735
  • Hommel, M (2008) The future of artemisinins: natural, synthetic or recombinant? J Biol. 7(10): 38. doi: 10.1186/jbiol101
  • Duke, SO & Powles, SB (2008) Glyphosate: a once-in-a-century herbicide Pest Manag Sci 64:319–325.
  • Jarvis, DE et al. (2017) The genome of Chenopodium quinoa. Nature. 542(7641):307-312. doi: 10.1038/nature21370
  • South, PF et al. (2018) Optimizing photorespiration for improved crop productivity. J Integr Plant Biol. 60(12):1217-1230. doi: 10.1111/jipb.12709

Teaching methods

The course (6 ECTS corresponding to 48 hours) consists of lectures accompanied by the projection of pictures and diagrams. All the teaching material can be downloaded via IOL.

Questions and requests of further explanation from the students are always welcome, both during and after the lesson.

Assessment methods

Oral exam on the topics discussed in the class. The assessment will be organized into three questions, two chosen by the teacher and one chosen by the student.

For students who wish one of three questions of the oral test may be replaced by a short oral presentation on a topic agreed with the teacher.

Teaching tools

The course takes place in classrooms with PC projection. All lessons are conducted through power point presentations. The lesson files and the teaching materials (articles, reviews, bibliography and websites) are made available to students via IOL-University of Bologna

Office hours

See the website of Francesca Sparla