Dr Janneke Balk, JIC
Iron homeostasis in plants and how to biofortify crops
Iron is an essential element for virtually all life forms. Its main function in biology is as an enzyme catalyst, for example in electron transfer reactions in photosynthesis and respiration. The uptake, distribution, use and storage of iron is tightly regulated, because an excess of iron in the cell is toxic. For many years our research group has focussed on the biosynthesis of iron-sulphur clusters in plants, an abundant and versatile iron catalyst. In yeast and mammals, iron-sulphur proteins also play a key role in iron signalling, but we find no evidence for this in plants. Instead, a small family of hemerythrin proteins are promising candidates as iron sensors that regulate the turnover of specific transcription factors. A better understanding of iron homeostasis mechanisms in plants also helps us to design strategies to biofortify crops with iron, with a particular focus on the endosperm of wheat.