Melis Kucukoglu Topcu
  • PL 65 (Viikinkaari 1)

    00014

    Finland

  • Viikinkaari 1, Biocentre 3

    00790 Helsinki

    Finland

20132024

Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Description of research and teaching

Meristem Activity Group

Lateral growth in plants originates from the vascular cambium, where stem cells are located. Cambium provides thickness to plant organs by generating conductive tissues - xylem (wood) toward the center and phloem toward the organ periphery. Vascular development continues as long as the plant grows, and proliferation and differentiation of these tissues from the cambium is controlled not only laterally but also along the plant body. As of January 2022, I have started establishing my independent research group at the University of Helsinki. In my research I am interested in understanding molecular mechanisms that regulate cambial development, lateral growth and vascular continuity in plants using tree (poplar and birch) stems and Arabidopsis roots as model systems.

Project overviews

Through a functional genomics approach, we have identified several novel transcription factors (TFs) that are activated by the plant hormone cytokinin, an enhancer of cambial cell division rate and lateral growth in plants. Currently we are exploring how these TFs regulate thickening of plant organs both in hybrid aspen trees and Arabidopsis roots using state-of-the-art molecular biology tools, such as knocking them out via CRISPR-Cas9 or tissue specific inducible overexpression and (live) confocal imaging.

We also would like to study how trees respond to local changes in cambial activity in short and long term and how vascular continuity and physiology along the tree trunk is affected from these changes. For this purpose, we are designing an innovative new system to genetically inhibit lateral growth at different heights along the plant body through inducible knockout of a cambial factor.

Finally, we would like to identify more key loci driving enhanced growth and carbon sink in trees through comparative single cell transcriptome analysis of Arabidopsis, birch and poplar and test systematically the roles of different candidate genes.

Supervision

  • 01.10.2023 – present: Main supervisor for post-doctoral researcher Dr. Riikka Mäkilä (University of Helsinki)
  • 10.10.2022 – present: Main supervisor for doctoral researcher MSc. George M. Woodward (University of Helsinki, preliminary defense date: October 2026)
  • 03.10.2022 – present: Main supervisor for doctoral researcher MSc. Wiktoria Fatz (University of Helsinki, preliminary defense date: October 2026)
  • 01.09.2019 – present: Co-supervisor for doctoral researcher MSc. Leo Vainio with Prof. Dr. Ari Pekka Mähönen (University of Helsinki, preliminary defense date: June 2024)
  • 02.05.2023 – present: Supervisor for MSc. degree student Elli Koukkari (From University of Helsinki, Finland, summer trainee)
  • 29.08.2022 – 16.12.2022: Supervisor to Erasmus Exchange BSc. degree student Margarida Lourenco (From Politécnico de Lisboa, Portugal, project work)
  • 01.09.2021 – 31.05.2022: Supervisor for MSc. degree student Suzan Kumer Bhadhury (Erasmus-Mundus MSc, emPLANT, University of Helsinki, master thesis, defended June 2022)
  • 02.09.2019 – 31.01.2019: Supervisor to Erasmus Exchange technical degree student Markus Jan Heidema (From MboRijnland, The Netherlands, project work)
  • 25.03.2019 – 16.08.2019: Supervisor to Erasmus Exchange MSc. degree student Iris Zahn (From Wageningen University, The Netherlands, project work)
  • 01.07.2018 – 31.08.2018: Supervisor to Erasmus Exchange BSc. degree student Marta Ibáñez Lazaro (from University of Zaragoza, Spain, summer trainee)

Teaching

  • Plants in a changing world (lecturer), University of Helsinki, Finland (September 2023)
  • Advanced Molecular Biology (laboratory TA), University of Helsinki, Finland (April 2018, 2021)
  • Signal Transduction in Plants (lecturer), University of Helsinki, Finland (October 2020)
  • Plant Developmental Biology (lecturer), University of Helsinki, Finland (February 2020 to 2023)
  • Effects of auxin and cytokinin on organogenesis in tissue culture (laboratory TA), UPSC, Umeå, Sweden, (2010 to 2014)
  • Plant Anatomy Laboratory (laboratory TA), UPSC, Sweden, (2011 to 2013)
  • Course in Pedagogics (Teaching in Higher Education, basic course: 4,5 ECTS, 2011)

Education/Academic qualification

Biology, PhD, Molecular Regulation of Vascular Cambium Identity and Activity, SLU, Umea Plant Sci Ctr, Dept Forest Genet & Plant Physiol

Award Date: 27 Nov 2015

Molecular Biology, MSc, Umeå University

Award Date: 13 Aug 2009

Molecular Biology and Genetics, BSc, Istanbul Technical University

Award Date: 8 Feb 2008

Fields of Science

  • 11831 Plant biology
  • Vascular development
  • Cambium
  • Wood formation
  • Secondary growth
  • Arabidopsis
  • Poplar (Populus)
  • Birch (Betula)
  • Stem cells
  • 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
  • Transgenic trees
  • CRISPR-Cas9
  • Inducible gene expression
  • Biotechnology
  • RNAi
  • Overexpression
  • Transcription factors
  • Signalling
  • 4112 Forestry
  • Molecular breeding
  • Biomass improvement
  • Wood chemistry

International and National Collaboration

Publications and projects within past five years.