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The micronutrient iron plays a fundamental role in many redox reactions and electron transport processes such as photosynthesis. Iron is taken up as ferrous or ferric iron (Fe2+, Fe3+). However, iron is often not readily bioavailable in the soil, resulting in iron deficiency particularly on alkaline and calcareous soils.  On the other hand, free cellular iron is toxic and causes oxidative stress.

We study the acquisition of the micronutrient iron by plant roots, storage and transport of this micronutrient throughout the plant. Our aim is to understand the regulatory processes, iron signals, the gene and protein networks coordinating the responses with regard to environmental aspects. We combine physiological experiments with methods from various biological disciplines, like genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and cell biology.

Plant model systems, particularly Arabidopsis thaliana, are in our focus to identify and characterize novel gene functions for the uptake and allocation of iron in plants. Iron use efficiency is crucial for optimal plant growth and biomass production.

Our research results are applied to design novel plant growth practices and breeding strategies to increase the mineral use efficiency of plants in the rhizosphere and to enhance the nutritional quality of plant-derived products.


This figure (designed by Dr. Rumen Ivanov in our lab) shows a cross section through a root of a dicotyledonous plant. Epidermis cells mobilise iron in the soil and take up ferrous iron. Networks of gene and protein functions, identified in Arabidopsis, help to unravel the signaling, regulation and coordination of mineral uptake and plant growth in the environment.

We have published review articles about iron acquisition and regulation in plants, that we especially recommend to researchers and students:
  • Schwarz B., Bauer P. (2020) FIT, a regulatory hub for iron deficiency and stress signaling in roots, and FIT-dependent and -independent gene signatures. J. Exp. Bot., in press,
    -> highly recommended for researchers and advanced students interested in Fe acquisition regulation in the root, highlights bHLH transcription factor FIT-dependent and -independent co-expression clusters and gene signatures, their functions in Fe acquisition in the root and Fe homeostasis or other functions in the plant, also highlights FIT as a regulatory hub in response to developmental and stress signaling.
  • Thi Tuyet Le C., Brumbarova T., Bauer P. (2019) The Interplay of ROS and Iron Signaling in Plants. In: Panda S., Yamamoto Y. (eds) Redox Homeostasis in Plants. Signaling and Communication in Plants. Springer, Cham; doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95315-1_3,
    -> summarizes toxic effects of Fe in plants, highlights gene signatures for toxic Fe effects and interconnections of Fe and reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling
  • Bauer P. (2016); Regulation of iron acquisition responses in plant roots by a transcription factor. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ. 44: 438-449,
    -> especially recommended for Master students that attend the course M4450, highlights background on the FIT/bHLH039/IRT1/FRO2 regulatory module and explains typical iron deficiency response assays, also focusses on the learning outcomes and training of method skills of module M4450
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