Plant Molecular Improvement

Basic and Applied Studies of Plants on the Basis of Chloroplast Functions

Production of Functional Constituents, Foods and Biofuel by Engineering of Plants with All Plant-Derived Genes

Multiple environmental and societal factors have contributed to there now being considerable attention given to such concerns as the exhaustion of foods and fuel, severe weather changes, and a progressively aging society. Together, these factors have resulted in an increased prevalence of numerous lifestyle-related illnesses. Plants fix atmospheric CO2 by solar energy to supply us with foods, biofuel, and most pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, all of which society requires. In an effort to address this societal concern, our recent research has focused extensively on chloroplasts, plant structures which are essential to photosynthesis and virtually all plant activities. In addition to studying the genomic makeup of lettuce and other crops, we have also employed Arabidopsis, with which many experimental tools—including those on which the genome project is based—are available.

1. Regulation of generation of functional chloroplasts
Chloroplasts are chemical factories in plant cells and exhausted highly under light conditions. Several genes and mechanisms governing the chloroplast biogenesis1 and the replacement of parts2 have been revealed.
2. Mechanisms of tolerance to environmental stresses
Salinity represents a major abiotic stress factor that imposes serious threats to agricultural industries worldwide. We have discovered a new mechanism of salt tolerance3 and using activation-tagging we have just recently discovered novel genes for tolerance to abiotic stress.
3. Biofortification of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical compounds
We have developed technologies for genetic transformation of chloroplast4 and nuclear5 genomes with all plant-derived genes. Light-emitting diode (LED)-dependent enrichment with constituents has also been accomplished. These methodologies are employed for commercialization of vegetables enriched with functional compounds.


Hirokazu KobayashiPhD


Yasuo NiwaPhD

Details are here



Functions of the chloroplast for supplying a variety of substrates for metabolism


Tolerance of Arabidopsis transformed with bHLH19 under a salt stress condition (75 mM NaCl).


  1. Plant Cell Physiol., 47, 319-331 (2006)
  2. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 107, 10760-10764 (2010)
  3. Plant Cell, 11, 1195-1206 (1999)
  4. Plant Physiol., 147, 1976-1983 (2008)
  5. Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem., 73, 936-938 (2009)