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

  • LIKE SEX4 1 Acts as a beta-Amylase-Binding Scaffold on Starch Granules during Starch Degradation
    Schreier, TB; Umhang, M; Lee, SK; Lue, WL; Shen, ZX; Silver, D; Graf, A; Muller, A; Eicke, S; Stadler-Waibel, M; Seung, D; Bischof, S; Briggs, SP; Kotting, O; Moorhead, GBG; Chen, J; Zeeman, SC
    PLANT CELL, 31 (9):2169-2186; 10.1105/tpc.19.00089 SEP 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
  • Modification of Cassava Root Starch Phosphorylation Enhances Starch Functional Properties
    Wang, WY; Hostettler, CE; Damberger, FF; Kossmann, J; Lloyd, JR; Zeeman, SC
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 9 10.3389/fpls.2018.01562 OCT 30 2018
  • Changes in resource partitioning between and within organs support growth adjustment to neighbor proximity in Brassicaceae seedlings
    de Wit M; George GM; Ince YC; Dankwa-Egli B; Hersch M; Zeeman SC; Fankhauser, C
  • Accelerated ex situ breeding of GBSS- and PTST1-edited cassava for modified starch
    Simon E. Bull, David Seung, Christelle Chanez, Devang Mehta, Joel‑Elias Kuon, Elisabeth Truernit, Anton Hochmuth, Irene Zurkirchen, Samuel C. Zeeman, Wilhelm Gruissem and Hervé Vanderschuren
    Science Advances, 4 (9): 10.1126/sciadv.aat6086, Washington, DC: AAAS, SEP 2018. 
  • Plastidial NAD-Dependent Malate Dehydrogenase: A Moonlighting Protein Involved in Early Chloroplast Development through Its Interaction with an FtsH12-FtsHi Protease Complex
    Schreier, Tina B.; Clery, Antoine; Schlaefli, Michael; Galbier, Florian; Stadler, Martha; Demarsy, E; Albertini, D; Maier, BA; Kessler, F; Hortensteiner, S; Zeeman, SC; Kotting, O
    PLANT CELL  30 (8):1745-1769  10.1105/tpc.18.00121 AUG 2018
  • Repression of Sex4 and Like Sex Four2 Orthologs in Potato Increases Tuber Starch Bound Phosphate With Concomitant Alterations in Starch Physical Properties
    Samodien, Ebrahim; Jewell, Jonathan F.; Loedolff, Bianke; et al.
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE 9: 1044  10.3389/fpls.2018.01044  JUL 23 2018
  • Two Plastidial Coiled-Coil Proteins Are Essential for Normal Starch Granule Initiation in Arabidopsis
    Seung, D; Schreier, TB; Burgy, L; Eicke, S; Zeeman, SC
    PLANT CELL 30(7): 1523-1542   10.1105/tpc.18.00219 JUL 2018
  • Genetic Diversity of Diurnal Carbohydrate Accumulation in White Clover (Trifolium repens L.)
    Ruckle, Michael E.; Bernasconi, Lucia; Kolliker, Roland; Zeeman, Samuel C.; Studer, Bruno
    AGRONOMY-BASEL, 8 (4): APR 2018
  • Distinct Functions of STARCH SYNTHASE 4 Domains in Starch Granule Formation 
    Lu, Kuan-Jen; Pfister, Barbara; Jenny, Camilla; et al. 
    PLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 176 (1): 566-581 JAN 2018
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