Molecular Plant Physiology and Ethnobotany

Nature has gifted us with a rich plant biodiversity that is critical for human life and wellbeing on earth, especially as source of food, bioenergy, atmospheric gas recycling, readily available natural phytomedicines to mention but a few. However, more than 80% of plant biodiversity is still underexploited or unknown. Although the Kotchoni lab is fascinated by all aspects of plant sciences, our major research interests are two-fold oriented.


  • 1) Studying the adaptation of plants to a wide range of environmental stresses (drought, salt, cold, and pathogens) in order to improve agricultural sustainability; and 
     
  • 2) harnessing the beneficial properties of plants to address the urgent need of our century such as renewable energy, and alternative natural plant-derive medicinal products. 

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1) Understanding how certain plants cope with extreme stress conditions is an important question in agriculture sustainability. My group is addressing this question in a wide range of plant species including the resurrection plant Craterostigma plantagineum, and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana by determining the molecular basis of environmental stress responses, and how these mechanisms are breached in stress susceptible plants. Using a combination of genetic, genomic, proteomics, molecular and cell biological approaches, we are currently focusing our efforts on morphological and physiological events that occur in plants under stress conditions such as structural adjustment, removal of toxins, LEA proteins, degradation & repair, sugar metabolism and gene regulation, which provide excellent tools for dissecting stress response mechanisms and pathways in higher plants with the ultimate goal of improving environmental stress tolerance in crop plants. Addressing this paradigm is the major thrust of this research.


2) Plants represent a living factory that can virtually meet all the needs of other living beings on earth. Therefore plant resources need to be well managed and jealously guarded. However, several thousand of diverse plant species are under threat of extinction due to a combination of climate change and human activities. In this research thrust, the Kotchoni lab is geared towards promoting botanical biodiversity research in disappearing habitats by studying the potential of neglected and underutilized plant species (NUS) with regard to their bioenergy and medicinal properties. Our ultimate goal of this research is to explore the biodiversity of plant species, especially the NUS, and re-evaluate their uses in bioenergy production as well as a source of phytomedicinal products.