Professor of Biology, UTSC
Professor Vanlerberghe is a plant biologist and has been a faculty member at Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) since 1995. Prior to this, he received B.Sc. (Biology) and M.Sc. (Plant Science) degrees at Western University, a Ph.D. degree from Queen’s University (Department of Biology; supervisor David H. Turpin), and postdoctoral training at Michigan State University (Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory; supervisor Lee McIntosh).
Professor Vanlerberghe’s research program investigates the impact of abiotic and biotic stress on plant energy metabolism. Such studies uncover the signature responses of metabolism to stress, elucidate how these responses support stress acclimation, and generate the knowledge foundation required to improve plant performance in the field. Professor Vanlerberghe has published extensively in the premier plant biology journals and his work has been widely cited in the scientific literature (current Google Scholar h-index=34). His research program has been funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), an NSERC Green Crop Network Award, the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, an Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award, a Connaught Fund Award and the University of Toronto Scarborough. Professor Vanlerberghe has delivered invited lectures in North America, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia.
Professor Vanlerberghe teaches undergraduate courses in plant physiology, metabolism and stress biology. He has also served as Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, UTSC (2007-2012). Professor Vanlerberghe is member of the Canadian Society of Plant Biologists and has formerly served as its Eastern Regional Director.
The growth and productivity of crops depends on the capacity of plant metabolism to function effectively under a wide range of cellular and environmental conditions. An enhanced understanding of how metabolism functions, particularly under less favorable conditions, is therefore a central theme amongst intensifying efforts worldwide to improve crop yield. Professor Vanlerberghe’s research program investigates the impact of key abiotic and biotic stresses (including drought, low temperature, nutrient deficiency, high carbon dioxide, low oxygen and pathogen infection) on metabolism. The goal is to uncover the signature responses of carbon and energy metabolism to stress, to elucidate how these responses may support stress acclimation, and to generate the knowledge foundation required to improve metabolic function under stress. An emphasis is placed on the two major energy transducing organelles of the plant cell (the mitochondrion and the chloroplast) and on the interactions between major metabolic hubs including respiration, photosynthesis and nutrient assimilation. In addition, the impact of the related reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen metabolic networks is investigated. These reactive species can damage metabolism but are also key signaling molecules supporting growth, development and stress acclimation.
To advance their goals, the Vanlerberghe laboratory takes an integrative approach, whereby processes are studied at whole plant, cell, organelle, and molecular levels using a combination of physiological, biochemical and molecular biological approaches. Current research includes the generation and analysis of transgenic or mutant plants modified in specific metabolic components and raised under controlled stress conditions in plant growth chambers, gene expression analyses; leaf gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence/PSI absorbance analyses; organelle isolation and analyses; biochemical analyses of enzymes and metabolites, and confocal imaging and biochemical analyses of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species.