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Benjamin A. Babst

Research Interests

In fostering the development of bioenergy, the Department of Energy is concerned to avoid competition between food and fuel, which means not only developing dedicated non-food crops tailored with specific characteristics for bioenergy (e.g., high biomass, favorable biochemical composition), but also avoiding competition for prime agricultural lands by making use of marginal land areas that may have inadequate water and nutrient supplies for food crops. Robust plants will be needed that can grow vigorously despite various stresses encountered on marginal soils, as well as those expected due to climate change. Our goal is to fill critical gaps in our knowledge of plant biology necessary to facilitate the plant improvement process.

While plant biologists have become quite sophisticated in probing plant genomics and metabolism on a broad scale, there are still many gaps in our knowledge of how the different parts of the plant communicate changes in environmental and internal conditions, and regulate the sharing of resources such as carbohydrates and nutrients. We take a whole-plant approach, using radio-isotope tracers developed by our group at Brookhaven to study plant metabolism and transport in vivo. Working collaboratively to combine our techniques with metabolomics and genomics, we will not only advance our understanding of whole-plant function, but also begin to unravel the metabolic pathways, signals, and genes that control plant biochemistry, development, and physiology. Over the long term, understanding the regulation of resource partitioning to different classes of biochemicals and resource allocation to different plant organs will contribute to plant improvement strategies to optimize biomass production for bioenergy, and the development of plant substitutes for petroleum-based products, to be grown in sustainable low water and nutrient input systems.

Current Projects

Recent News

  • Sugar Responsible for Shoot Branching in Plants

Selected Publications

  • Mason M.G., Ross J.J., Babst B.A., Weinclaw B.N., and Beveridge C.A. Sugar demand, not auxin, is the initial regulator of apical dominance. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (Epub April 7, 2014).
  • Lacroix B., Gizatullina D.I., Babst B.A., Gifford A.N., and Citovsky V. Agrobacterium T DNA-encoded protein Atu6002 interferes with the host auxin response. Molecular Plant Pathology, 15(3):275-283 (2014).
  • Xue L.J., Guo W., Yuan Y., Anino E.O., Nyamdari B., Wilson M.C., Frost C.J., Chen H.Y., Babst B.A., Harding S.A., and Tsai C.J. Constitutively elevated salicylic Acid levels alter photosynthesis and oxidative state but not growth in transgenic populous. Plant Cell, 25(7):2714-2730 (2013).
  • Babst B., Karve A., and Tatjana J. Radio-metabolite analysis of carbon-11 biochemical partitioning to nonstructural carbohydrates for integrated metabolism and transport studies. Plant & Cell Physiology, 54(6):1016-1025 (2013).
  • Best M., Gifford A.N., Kim S.W., Babst B.A., Piel M., Rosch F., and Fowler J.S.
    Rapid radiosynthesis of [11C] and [14C]azelaic, suberic and sebacic acids for in vivo mechanistic studies of systemic acquired resistance in plants.
    J. Labelled Compd. Rad., 55:39-43 (2012).
  • Robert C.A.M., Veyrat N., Glauser G., Marti G., Doyen G.R., Villard N., Gaillard M.D.P., Kollner T.G., Giron D., Body M., Babst B.A., Ferrieri R.A., Turlings T.C.J.,and Erb M.
    Optimal pest foraging beats optimal crop defense: How a specialist herbivore uses defensive metabolites to locate nutritious roots.
    Ecology Letters, 15:55-64 (2012).
  • Reid A., Kim S.W., Seiner B., Hooker J., Ferrieri R., Babst B.A., Fowler J.
    Radiosynthesis of C-11 labelled auxin and its derivatives from gramine.
    J. Labelled Compd. Rad., 54: 433-437 (2011).
  • Babst B.A., Harding S., and Tsai C.J.
    Biosynthesis of phenolic glycosides from phenylpropanoid and benzenoid precursors in Populus.
    Journal of Chemical Ecology, 36:286-297 (2010).  PubMed
  • Payyavula R.S., Babst B.A., Nelsen M.P., Harding S.A., and Tsai C.J.
    Glycosylation-mediated phenylpropanoid partitioning in Populus tremuloides cell cultures.
    BMC Plant Biology, 9:151 (2009).  PubMed
  • Babst B.A., Sj√∂din A., Orians C.M., and Jansson S.
    Local and systemic transcriptome responses to herbivory and jasmonic acid in Populus.
    Tree Genetics and Genomes, 5: 459-474 (2009).
  • Babst B.A., Ferrieri R.A., Thorpe M.R., and Orians C.M.
    Lymantria dispar herbivory induces rapid changes in carbon transport and partitioning in Populus nigra.
    Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. 128:117-125 (2008).
  • Babst B.A., Ferrieri R.A., Gray D.W., Lerdau M., Schlyer D.J., Schueller M., Thorpe M.R. and Orians C.M.
    Jasmonic acid induces rapid changes in carbon transport and partitioning in Populus.
    New Phytologist, 167:63-72 (2005). PubMed
  • Ferrieri R.A., Gray D.W., Babst B.A., Schueller M.J., Schlyer D.J., Thorpe M.R., Orians C.M. and Lerdau M.
    Use of carbon-11 in Populus shows that exogenous jasmonic acid increases biosynthesis of isoprene from recently fixed carbon.
    Plant, Cell & Environment, 28:591-602 (2005). 
  • Orians C.M., Babst B.A. and Zanne A.E.
    Vascular constraints and long-distance transport in dicots.
    In Vascular Transport in Plants. (eds. Holbrook, N. M. & Zwieniecki, M.) Elsevier-Academic Press, Amsterdam. pp. 355-371 (2005).
  • Orians C.M., van Vuuren M.M.I., Harris N., Babst B.A., and Ellmore G.
    Differential sectoriality in long distance transport in temperate tree species: Evidence from dye flow, 15N transport and vessel element pitting.
    Trees: Structure and Function, 18(5):501-509 (2004).