B&PMP (Biochemistry and Plant Molecular Physiology) is a Joint Research Unit supported by four institutions: CNRS, INRA, SupAgro, and the University of Montpellier. Its research activity aims at elucidating the fundamental mechanisms that govern the water and mineral nutrition of plants, and their responses to abiotic environmental constraints, including those due to climate change.Our objective is dual : to understand better the organization and functioning of plants ; to contribute to the development of a sustainable agriculture, that saves natural resources and respects the environment.
For this, we develop an Integrative Biology approach. We combine multidisciplinary (genomics, biophysics, molecular biology, modelling) and multiscale (from gene to whole plant) approaches on various plant species (model and crop plants). Our projects address how the development and physiological functions of organs are coordinated, with an especially recognized expertise on roots. The aim is to determine how this coordination leads to an integrated response of plants to environmental constraints and how it governs plant growth.
B&PMP has a strong identity, because of the focus of its research teams on a common scientific objective: to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the water and mineral status of plants and their responses to major abiotic constraints. In particular, we try to understand how plants react and adapt to water, salt, nutrient and metal stresses which alter the acquisition and usage of water and mineral nutrients (potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, manganese, zinc) and which can markedly decrease crop productivity.
In this context, the research activities of B&PMP address:
The transport of ions and water. We characterize the membrane systems that mediate these transports, including during root symbioses (mycorrhizae, nitrogen fixing symbioses). These studies correspond to a long-standing and world-wide recognized expertise of B&PMP teams.
The signalling and regulation responses to the environment. The institute studies the mechanisms that allow plants to perceive abiotic environmental constraints (such as water or nutrient availability) and as a consequence modulate their development (such as root system architecture) or their physiology (root uptake, utilization and storage of water or nutrients). These investigations are now extended to plant responses to climate change (high CO2 and heat stress) and to plant-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere.
The development of organs, and roots in particular. Our research projects address the molecular and genetic bases of root plasticity in response to abiotic constraints or beneficial biotic interactions. B&PMP has acquired an international recognition for these studies.
The research activities of B&PMP are supported by a large panel of techniques involving genomic, molecular, image and physical analyses, relying on in-house common technical platforms. A wide array of molecular entities, from whole genome to purified proteins, is under study. Their expression, dynamics and function are investigated at various integration levels, from subcellular compartments to whole plant. This integrative biology research is also supported by mathematical modelling approaches (gene networks, structure-function models of roots).
While Arabidopsis remains a reference plant model for B&PMP, our activities have recently been extended to other biological models (wheat, lupin, maize, Medicago, pea, rice, grapevine). These species are investigated either because they provide a better model than Arabidopsis for a particular scientific question or because they represent a relevant target for transferring knowledge acquired in Arabidopsis. In this context, our projects can contribute to the selection of crop varieties that are better adapted to low inputs (water, fertilizers) or are improved for the nutritional or organoleptic qualities (seed iron content, acidity of grape berries).
These research projects are supported by public funding at European (ERC, Marie-Curie actions, ERA-CAPS), national (ANR, CNRS, INRA), or regional (Labex AGRO, Montpellier University, SupAgro) levels, or through partnerships with private companies.
B&PMP comprises 42 researchers and teacher-researchers and 38 engineers, technicians and administrative staff. In addition, about 60 post-doctoral researchers, PhD and master students, and non-permanent technicians work at B&PMP. The Institute is organized in 10 research teams, two technical and administrative support teams, and several technical platforms.
B&PMP is a major player in plant biology research at the regional, national and international levels. With 28 researchers that supervise PhD students and 7 professors or assistant professors from the University of Montpellier and SupAgro, the Institute plays a major role in teaching, in training Master students and contributes to the GAIA doctoral school. More than 15 nationalities are represented at B&PMP and our research projects involve cooperation with more than 20 countries.