Agriculture News

May 9, 2016  

Plant biologist Dudareva earns Humboldt Research Award

Natalia Dudareva

Natalia dudareva 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University plant molecular biologist Natalia Dudareva has received the Humboldt Research Award for her work in improving our understanding of plant cell biology and biochemistry.

Given by Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the award is granted in recognition of researchers whose discoveries, theories or insights have had a significant impact on their discipline and who are expected to continue producing field-advancing achievements in the future.

Dudareva, distinguished professor of biochemistry and horticulture and landscape architecture, explores the molecular mechanisms of plant metabolism and how plants produce volatile compounds, scent and taste components that are essential for successful pollination, fruit development and plant defense.

"Dr. Dudareva is regarded as one of the world's leading experts in plant molecular biology, and this recognition is most deserved," said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. "Her research provides the foundation for improving plants in a variety of ways, including enhancing the taste of fruits, increasing the resistance of plants to pests or diseases, and producing flavors, fragrances and pharmaceuticals with plants."

The award, valued at about $69,000, includes an invitation to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with colleagues at a research institution in Germany.

Dudareva has used biochemical, genetic and molecular approaches to provide insights into fundamental plant biology. She investigates the biosynthetic pathways that underpin plants' strategies for attracting pollinators, communicating with other plants and defending themselves from pathogens, parasites and herbivores.

Her research has led to the discovery of a microbial-like pathway in plants that produces phenylalanine, an amino acid that is a vital component of proteins. She also showed that active biological mechanisms are likely involved in transporting plant volatiles from plant cells to the atmosphere, a finding that could overturn the prevailing model of volatile emission as a process that occurs solely by diffusion.

"Dr. Dudareva is a creative and innovative scientist who continually embraces and utilizes cutting-edge technologies to explore new scientific frontiers in plant metabolism and regulation of volatile organic compounds," said Andrew Mesecar, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Walther Professor of Cancer Structural Biology. "She consistently makes new discoveries in these areas, and her research has significant impact in our understanding of how plants interact with their environment. Her recent discoveries on how plants regulate the release of volatiles to the atmosphere will likely change textbooks."

Writer: Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050,

Sources: Jay Akridge, 765-494-8391,

Andrew Mesecar, 765-494-1924,          

Natalia Dudareva, 765-494-1325,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

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