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Facoltà di Scienze Agrarie e Alimentari Università degli Studi di Milano
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Plant Biochemistry and Physiology
Code: G2408-
Teacher:  Silvia Morgutti
CFU subdivision: Lectures: 5
Practices in classroom: 1
Basic aims:  The Course is aimed to gaining the basic knowledge on the fundamental biochemical and physiological processes of higher plants, in order to understand the main mechanisms involved in the determination of crop plant yield, also in unfavourable environments.
Acquired skills:  Knowledge of the mechanisms regulating energy transfer and carbon metabolism in plants. Knowledge of the biochemical and physiological factors detemining the productivity of crop plants, also in unfavourable environments.
Course contents:  Bioenergetics and thermodynamics. Enzyme catalysis. Glycolisis, fermentation, TCA cycle, other pathways of carbon metabolism. Oxidative phosphorylation. Photosynthesis: light reactions and assimilation reactions. Ecophysiology of photosynthesis. Plant-H2O relations. Transpiration, stomata regulation, water transport in the xylem. Translocation of photosyntates. Mineral nutrition. Chemical and electrochemical potentials, solute absorption and assimilation. Phytoregulators and stress adaptations
Program:  Principles of bioenergetics and thermodynamics. Thermodynamic systems and their environments. I and II thermodynamics laws. Enthropy and free energy. Exo- and endo-ergonic reactions; energetically coupled reactions. ATP and phosphor group transfer. Other high energy compounds. Carbon redox states in compounds of biological interest. Oxy-reduction potential. Relationship between delta E and delta G. Oxy-reduction coenzymes. Redox reactions of biological interest. Thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of enzymatic catalysis. Michaelis-Menten’s equation. Inhibition and regulation of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Metabolic reations: the concepts of catabolism and anabolism. Carbon metabolism: degradation of storage polysaccharides (starch). Glycolysis and lactic and alcoholic fermentation. Energy yield of anaerobic glucose degradation. The Krebs cycle. Electron flux and oxidative phosphorylation. Mitchell’s chemiosmosis theory. Energy yield of glucose aerobic degradation. Other mechanisms of O2 consumption in plants. Other pathways of glucose degradation: the pentose-P pathway. Basic aspects of the metabolism of storage lipids: energy yield of fatty acids degradation. Basic aspects of storage lipid degradation in plants: the glyoxilate cycle. Photosynthesis. The electromagnetic spectrum. Energy content of different wavelength radiations. Photosynthetically Active Radiation. Absorption and action spectra. Photosynthetic pigments: excitation and de-excitation phenomena. Photosystems, light-harvesting complexes, reaction centers. Energy transfer from the light-harvesting complexes to the reaction center. Accessory pigments. Photosynthetic electron flow and phosphorylation: the Z scheme. Non-cyclic and cyclic photophosphorylation. Herbicides disrupting the photosynthetic electron transport. Photooxidative damage. Carbon organication: C3 and C4 cycles, CAM metabolism. Photorespiration. Responses to light and temperature: light compensation point, CO2 compensation point. Plants and water. Definition of water potential and factors contributing to it in the plant cell: pressure, temperature, presence of solutes. Components of water potential in the plant cell: solute potential, matric potential, pressure potential. Osmotic phenomena: Van't Hoff's law. Isotonic, hypotonic, hypertonic solutions. Plasmolysis, cell turgor. Expansion growth. The soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. Water absorption by roots: the apoplastic and symplastic pathways. Transpiration. The driving force for the lift of the xylem sap in the xylem. Loss of water through the stomata, regulation of stomata opening. Photosynthate translocation in the phloem. Osmotically generated pressure flow. Role of active transport of H+ in sucrose loading and unloading. "Sinks" and “sources". Mineral nutrition. Plant nutrient requirements: micro- and macronutrients. Nutrient availability and plant growth. Solute transport in plant cells. Cell membranes and the plasmalemma: their role in cell physiology. Selective permeability. Chemical and electrochemical potentials and their role in determination of the direction of solute flux. Diffusion, active and passive transport. The Nernst’ equation. Carriers and ion channels. Role of the PM H+-ATPase in generating the transmembrane electrochemical proton gradient and its role in secondary active transport. Absorption and assimilation of N, S and P. Micronutrient absorption: the case of Fe. Heavy metal toxicity: the case of Al. Mechanism of resistance to heavy metals: exclusion and detoxification. Plant growth regulators. General description of their peculiar characteristics. Evaluation of biological activity: biological tests. Auxins, gibberellins, cytokinins, abscisic acid and ethylene: description of a few specifici physiological effects and of a few related agricultural practices. Stress physiology. The concepts of stress. Abiotic stresses: low temperature stress, water stress, soil acidity stress, oxydative and radiation stresses. Biochemical and physiological aspects of plant responses to stresses. .
Prerequisites:  Full understanding of the course's contents is strictly dependent
the knowledge of fundamentals of Plant Biology, Physics,
Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.
Preparatory instructions:  None compulsory.
Nevertheless, the successful getting through of the First Year's
exams (Plant Biology, Physics, Inorganic Chemistry and Organic
Chemistry) is strongly recommended prior to start the study of
the topics inherent to the exam.
Learning materials:  W.K. Purves, D. Sadava, G.H. Orians, H.C. Heller "Biologia. La
cellula" - Zanichelli; Raven P.H., Evert R.F., Eichhorn S.
delle piante” – Zanichelli; Nelson D., Cox M. “Introduzione alla
biochimica di Lehninger”, ed. Zanichelli, Bologna. Taiz L.,
Zeiger E.
“Elementi di Fisiologia Vegetale”, Piccin Editore, Padova. Copy
the slides shown during the lectures will be made available to
students of the Degree Course in the UniMi Ariel 2.0 website
(Biologia vegetale e biochimica e fisiologia delle piante
coltivate) by
prof. Morgutti.
Other info:  The exam consists in two written tests, one concerning the first
part of the course (biochemistry), the other concerning the
second part (plant physiology. Each test is made up by three
open-ended questions (0-7/30 each) plus six multiple choice
questions (1/30 each if correct, 0/30 if missing and -0,25/30 if
uncorrect) plus one exercise (0-3/30). The Plant
Physiology test may be tackled only in case of positive result in
the Biochemistry test. The exam will be considered passed
provided that the results are positive (score equal to or higher
than 17.5/30) in both tests.
In case of a score of less than 15/30, it will not be allowed to
repeat the test before 30 days.
The exams will take place at Edolo with a minimum number of
students equal to 5; otherwise, the exams will take place at the
Facoltà di Scienze Agrarie ed Alimentari, via Celoria 2, Milano.
Students with Specific Learning Disorders: in order to take
advantage of the foreseen facilities, students should make
aware the dedicated Office at UniMI
Prof. Raffaella Zanchi (raffaella.zanchi@unimi.it) is the
reference person at the Faculty. Prof. Morgutti should also be
made aware of specific situations for agreements on exam
Students enrolled to an exam but unwilling to stand the test
should in due time communicate their decision to prof.
Morgutti. If not, they will not be admitted to the test in the
successive date.
On the basis of specific and proven requirements of Off Course
students, additional test dates may be planned after
appointment with the Teacher at the Faculty of Agriculture in
Program of Plant Biochemistry and Physiology (pdf version)
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