The role of carbon metabolism in drought stress tolerance

Plant Molecular Physiology and Biochemistry

Our lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of carbon partitioning (between starch and sugars) at different stages of water deficit.

In the case of mild water stress, the partial closure of stomata can be sufficient to sustain plant performance, thus making guard cells a putative target to engineer drought avoidance in plants with minimal alterations of yield. We employ a diverse array of molecular and biochemical approaches to investigate the contribution of starch and sucrose metabolism in the regulation of stomatal movement in Arabidopsis guard cells over the diurnal cycle and in response to water deficit.

In case of more severe stress, one of the most important mechanisms of drought resistance is the accumulation of soluble sugars to avoid water loss and to protect membranes, enzymes and other structures against damage and denaturation. To identify the precise metabolic origin of the increased sugar pool and the way the stress-induced reprogramming of carbon metabolism is regulated, we perform 14CO2 “pulse-chase” experiments in Arabidopsis wild type plants and a set of starch/sucrose-related mutants exposed to different levels of water stress.


Recent Publications

  • Salinity in Autumn-Winter Season and Fruit Quality of Tomato Landraces
    Moles, TM; Francisco, RD; Mariotti, L; Pompeiano, A; Lupini, A; Incrocci, L; Carmassi, G; Scartazza, A; Pistelli, L; Guglielminetti, L; Pardossi, A; Sunseri, F; Hortensteiner, S; Santelia, D
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 10 10.3389/fpls.2019.01078 SEP 24 2019
  • The Thioredoxin-Regulated alpha-Amylase 3 of Arabidopsis thaliana Is a Target of S-Glutathionylation
    Gurrieri, L; Distefano, L; Pirone, C; Horrer, D; Seung, D; Zaffagnini, M; Rouhier, N; Trost, P; Santelia, D; Sparla, F
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 10 10.3389/fpls.2019.00993 JUL 31 2019
  • The evolution of functional complexity within the β-amylase gene family in land plants
    Thalmann M; Coiro M; Meier T; Wicker T; Zeeman SC; Santelia D
    BMC EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 19 10.1186/s12862-019-1395-2 FEB 28 2019
  • Quantification of Starch in Guard Cells of Arabidopsis thaliana
    Fluetsch, S; Distefano, L; Santelia, D
    BIO-PROTOCOL 8(13): e2920  10.21769/BioProtoc.2920  JUL 5 2018
  • Transitory Starch Metabolism in Guard Cells: Unique Features for a Unique Function 
    Santelia, Diana; Lunn, John E. 
    PLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 174 (2): 539-549 JUN 2017
  • Starch as a determinant of plant fitness under abiotic stress 
    Thalmann, Matthias; Santelia, Diana 
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 214 (3): 943-951 MAY 2017
  • High-Throughput Non-destructive Phenotyping of Traits that Contribute to Salinity Tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana
    Awlia, M; Nigro, A; Faikus, J; et al.
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 7: 1414   10.3389/fpls.2016.01414 SEP 28 2016
  • Starch Turnover and Metabolism during Flower and Early Embryo Development 
    Hedhly, Afif; Vogler, Hannes; Schmid, Marc W.; et al. 
    PLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 172 (4): 2388-2402 DEC 2016
  • Rethinking Guard Cell Metabolism 
    Santelia, Diana; Lawson, Tracy 
    PLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 172 (3): 1371-1392 NOV 2016
  • Regulation of Leaf Starch Degradation by Abscisic Acid Is Important for Osmotic Stress Tolerance in Plants 
    Thalmann, Matthias; Pazmino, Diana; Seung, David; et al. 
    PLANT CELL, 28 (8): 1860-1878 AUG 2016
Diana Santelia

PD Dr. Diana Santelia
ETH Zurich
Institute of Integrative Biology
8092 Zurich

Phone: +41 44 632 89 27

Research topics

  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Guard cells
  • Drought/desiccation tolerance



  • Plant biochemistry and physiology
  • Molecular genetics
  • Cell biology