3306 New Science Facility
Plant secondary metabolites are compounds that are produced by plants for various roles and are also extracted from the plants for medicinal and industrial purposes. I am particularly interested in the class of compounds called flavanoids which includes compounds that give color to flowers, protect plants from fungal invasion, from UV radiation, etc. Flavanoids are also the monomeric units of proanthocyanidins which are present in seed coats, bark, leaves and unripe fruits and are important for plant protection as well as the flavor in wines and teas. I have been studying the biosynthetic pathway leading to these polymeric compounds, attempting to isolate and characterize an enzyme that is involved in the polymerization. My primary source of plant material has been the black locust tree. This tree, although detested by those who resent its ability to resprout after being cut down, has some valuable qualities both as a tree species and as a wood source. Among other things its wood is decay resistant and the tree grows on marginal land and fixes nitrogen. Because of these qualities I am also beginning a project on phytoremediation, considering the possibility of using black locust as a species to be planted on contaminated land for the purpose of renewing it . I will be looking at the mechanisms by which black locust can survive in the presence of contaminants and whether it metabolizes them in any way.