08211 - Plant Ecophysiology

Course Unit Page


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

Zero hunger Life on land

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will acquire a critical and in-depth vision of the main themes of plant ecophysiology concerning photosynthesis, metabolism, plant-soil, plant-light, and plant-atmosphere relationships, as well as physiological elements of biotic/abiotic stresses and defence plant responses. Therefore, the student will be able to critically evaluate the physiological state of plants and to understand the mechanisms of functioning and adaptation to the environment, also taking advantage of an intensive experimental laboratory.

Course contents

The soil and the water. Radical absorption. Transpiration. Stomata: organization, function and regulatory mechanims. Essential nutritive elements and nutrient deficiencies. Membrane transport, aquaporins and proton pumps. Mycorrhizae.

Nitrogen assimilation. Absorption and reduction of ammonium nitrate. Ammonium assimilation. The nitrogen cycle. Carnivorous plants.

Sulfur assimilation. The sulfur cycle. Absorption and reduction of sulfate. Sulfur assimilation. Synthesis of sulfur compounds (e.g. methionine and glutathione).

Photosynthesis (light phase). Light. Chloroplasts. Photosynthetic pigments: chlorophylls, carotenoids and ficobiliproteins. Photosystems. Structure and functioning of the photosystem II. Cytochrome b6f and cycle Q. Structure and function of photosystem I. ATP synthase of chloroplasts. Scheme Z. Non-cyclic photosynthetic transport. Evolution of photosynthesis and photosynthetic organisms.

Photosynthesis (metabolic phase). Carbon fixation. RubisCO: structure, reactions, and regulation. Calvin-Benson cycle and light/dark regulation. Photorespiration. Mechanisms of CO2 concentration. C4/CAM plants: metabolism and anatomy. Metabolic relationships between starch and sucrose. Biosynthesis of sucrose, amylose and amylopectin. Sink-source relationships.

Secondary metabolites: classification and main physiological roles. Artemisinin: biosynthesis and use in bio-farming.

Seminar on plant GMOs: generation, use, and future perpesctives.

Hormones: general concepts and biosynthesis. In-depth study of the signaling and regulatory pathways of hormones through seminars held by students.

Laboratory (1 CFU)

Purification of chloroplasts from leaf material of different origin. Extraction of photosynthetic pigments and spectrophotometric determination of the content of chlorophylls and carotenoids. Measurement of proteins (Bradford method) and separation of chloroplastic proteins by gel electrophoresis. Calculations and final considerations.


Rascio N, Carfagna S, Esposito S, La Rocca N, Lo Gullo MA, Trost P, Vona V (2017) Elementi di Fisiologia vegetale. EdiSES .

Teaching methods

The course (5 CFU) will be held by conducting lectures accompanied by the projection of images and slides (power point). The teacher is available for any questions and clarifications both during and at the end of the lesson. The part of the laboratory will include a introductory lesson in which the experimental protocol will be explained and all students will perform the experimental activity individually. The laboratory ends with a comparative analysis of the data collected by each student.

Assessment methods

The examination consists of an oral test where candidates will be asked questions about the content of the course in order to assess their knowledge and general vision. A non-compulsory seminar activity will be proposed during the course and considered as part of the exam grade

Teaching tools

The course will take place in classrooms equipped with PC projection. All lessons will be carried out with the help of power point presentations. The files of the power point presentations will be made available to the students at the end of the course. The laboratory course will take place in a single-workstation, equipped with centrifuges, spectrophotometers and electrophoretic cells.

Office hours

See the website of Mirko Zaffagnini