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Mark Bernards, PhD

Plant Secondary Metabolism

Mark Bernards Position:
North Campus Building Room 402
(519) 661-2111 x 86477
519 661-3935

My research program is based on the study of plant secondary metabolites or phytochemicals. I am interested in how plants use phytochemicals to interact with other organisms or defend themselves against environmental factors such as wounding and pathogen attack. We spend a lot of time isolating and analysing phytochemicals using various chromatographic techniques and bioassays. Our research activities can be divided into two categories: 1) Biosynthesis of Suberin and 2) Chemical Ecology of Phytochemicals. Each is briefly described below.

1) Biosynthesis of Suberin
In response to wounding and other environmental stresses, the cells of plants exposed to the stress may be induced to form suberin. Suberin is the name given to a specific cell wall modification deposited in periderm, wound periderm, and endo- and exodermal cells that involves the biosynthesis of a poly(phenolic) domain (SPPD) within the cell wall as well as a poly(aliphatic) domain (SPAD) between the plasma membrane and the cell wall. The structure of suberin has undergone revision as new information about its chemical composition is revealed. We recently proposed a new structural model for potato tuber suberin, based on our studies as well as extensive literature reports. We have also developed a model to help understand the macromolecular assembly of the SPPD and have two current projects testing it. More recently, we have initiated a metabolite profiling project to better understand the changes in both primary and secondary metabolism that occur during suberization.

2) Chemical Ecology of Phytochemicals
Many phytochemicals are biologically active and play a direct role in the interaction between a plant and its environment. In my lab we are investigating the potential of ginsenosides to act as allelochemicals and how different soilborne fungi respond to them in vitro.

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