Plant primary metabolism - From basic research to crop productivity

The domestication of crops was a landmark in the development of human civilisation. Today, most of our food and many of our resources are derived from plants. One of the most fundamental compounds is starch. Starch is the predominant storage carbohydrate in plants and the major constituent of our staple crops (e.g. rice, maize, wheat, potato etc). Despite its importance, our understanding of how plants make and degrade this essential resource is far from complete. Our research team focuses on the metabolic pathways leading to and from starch, and the way in which they are regulated.

We use the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as our experimental system. This allows us to exploit the complete genome sequence and the array of post-genomic facilities to make rapid progress. Our current understanding suggests that different plants make starch is essentially the same way, as the components of the pathway appears to be highly conserved, even in distantly related species. Consequently, the knowledge gained through studying Arabidopsis will be transferable to starch-producing crops and enable their future improvement. This is an essential goal as the world population approaches its predicted peak of over 9 billion.


Recent Publications

  • Morphological bases of phytoplankton energy management and physiological responses unveiled by 3D subcellular imaging
    Uwizeye, Clarisse; Decelle, Johan; Jouneau, Pierre-Henri; Flori, Serena; Gallet, Benoit; et al.
    Nature Communications 10.1038/s41467-021-21314-0 Published: FEB 16 2021
  • A multifaceted analysis reveals two distinct phases of chloroplast biogenesis during de-etiolation in Arabidopsis
    Pipitone, Rosa; Eicke, Simona; Pfister, Barbara; Glauser, Gaetan; Falconet, Denis; Uwizeye, Clarisse; Pralon, Thibaut; Zeeman, Samuel C; Kessler, Felix; Demarsy, Emilie
    Elife e62709,  10.7554/eLife.62709, FEB 25 2021
  • Starch: A Flexible, Adaptable Carbon Store Coupled to Plant Growth
    Smith, Alison M.; Zeeman, Samuel C.
    Annual Review Of Plant Biology, Vol 71, 2020   DOI: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-050718-100241 2020
  • STARCH SYNTHASE5, a Noncanonical Starch Synthase-Like Protein, Promotes Starch Granule Initiation in Arabidopsis
    Abt, Melanie R.; Pfister, Barbara; Sharma, Mayank; Eicke, Simona; Burgy, Leo; et al.
    Plant Cell  DOI: 10.1105/tpc.19.00946  AUG 2020
  • Evolutionary innovations in starch metabolism
    Abt, Melanie R.; Zeeman, Samuel C.
    Current Opinion In Plant Biology  DOI: 10.1016/j.pbi.2020.03.001 JUN 2020
  • Theoretical and experimental approaches to understand the biosynthesis of starch granules in a physiological context
    Pfister, Barbara; Zeeman, Samuel C.; Rugen, Michael D.; Field, Robert A.; Ebenhoeh, Oliver; et al.
    Photosynthesis Research  DOI: 10.1007/s11120-019-00704-y  JUL 2020
  • Metabolic profiles of six African cultivars of cassava (Manihot esculentaCrantz) highlight bottlenecks of root yield
    Obata, Toshihiro; Klemens, Patrick A. W.; Rosado-Souza, Laise; Schlereth, Armin; Gisel, Andreas; et al.
    Plant Journal  DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14693 JUN 2020
  • Amylopectin Chain Length Dynamics and Activity Signatures of Key Carbon Metabolic Enzymes Highlight Early Maturation as Culprit for Yield Reduction of Barley Endosperm Starch after Heat Stress
    Cuesta-Seijo, Jose Antonio; De Porcellinis, Alice Jara; Valente, Angela Hordum et al.
    PLANT AND CELL PHYSIOLOGY  DOI: 10.1093/pcp/pcz155  DEC 2019
Samuel C Zeeman

Prof. Dr. Samuel C. Zeeman
ETH Zurich
Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
8092 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 632 82 75

Research topics

  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Starch biosynthesis and degradation
  • Photosynthesis



  • Plant biochemistry and physiology
  • Molecular genetics
  • Genomics, proteomics, metabolomics