Department of Plant Biology & Pathology
Foran Hall/ Cook Campus
59 Dudley Rd.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office: Room 328A Foran Hall, 848-932-6296
Lab: Room 328 Foran Hall, 848-932-6297
My research focuses on sulfur and amino acid metabolism. Sulfur is an essential macronutrient required for plant growth. It is used to synthesize the amino acids cysteine and methionine and numerous essential and secondary metabolites derived from these amino acids. Sulfur availability and content have significant impact on plant productivity and utilization. The value of crop plants is influenced by their methionine and cysteine content because animals, including humans, depend on plants as a dietary source of these amino acids. Sulfur compounds are also responsible for the distinctive properties of crops, such as the flavors of mustards and onions, the baking properties of wheat, and in resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Plants are able reprogram gene expression based on the availability of sulfur in their environment. This phenomenon implies that a sulfur sensor exists. One project aims to identify the sulfur-sensor. Another project focuses on improving the nutritional value of crops by metabolic engineering. A third aims to identify genes responsible for known functions in amino acid metabolism for which the responsible genes have not yet been identified. Together, these projects will provide the basic information needed for crop improvement.
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Dr. Thomas Leustek joined the department in 1991 and was promoted to Professor in 2001.