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Image: Gabrielle Beans Picón, © Gabrielle Beans

Christiane Funk lab

Research group Starting out from research on photosynthesis the focus of my work currently is on two different subjects: The function of plant proteases and the potential of Nordic microalgae for wastewater reclamation and biomass generation. Research objects in my group range from cyanobacteria, via green microalgae and cryptomonad algae to higher plants.

Plant proteases

Proteases are proteins that break down other proteins. They are involved in many different biological functions, e.g. the digestion of our food, cleaning the cell from malfunctioning proteins or cell signaling. Even though hundreds of proteases are encoded in the genomes of various plants, their biological roles are mostly unknown. Using molecular biological and biochemical methods, we try to find identify the function of some of them. Our model organisms range from cyanobacteria over algae to higher plants.

Wastewater reclamation and biomass generation by Nordic microalgae

Photosynthesis is a process where sunlight is highly efficiently converted into chemical energy and carbon dioxid from the air is diminished! We let microalgae perform photosynthesis and at the same time clean wastewater. The algal biomass then can be used for biofuel, biogas, biofertilizer or even bioplastic. Our challenge is the sub-arctic climate we have in Northern Sweden with low temperatures and short day lengths. Therefore we investigate the potential of local, natural algal strains. We test their performance in cleaning wastewater, analyze their biomass and investigate, how to prolong their growth phase.

Key publications

Martínez JM, Gojkovic Z, Ferro L, Maza M, Álvarez I, Raso J, Funk C. (2019) Use of Pulsed Electric Field permeabilization to extract astaxanthin from the Nordic microalga Haematococcus pluvialis. Bioresource Technology 289, 121694.

Mishra, L.S., Mielke, K., Wagner, R., Funk, C. (2019) Reduced expression of the presumably proteolytic inactive FtsHi members has impact on the Darwinian Figness of Arabidopsis thaliana. J. Exp. Botany 70, 2173-2184.

Karan, H.*, Funk, C.*, Grabert, M., Oey, M., Hankamer, B. (2019) Green bioplastics as part of a circular bioeconomy, Trends in Plant Science 24, 237-249.

Ferro, L., Gorzsás, A., Gentili, F.G., Funk, C. (2018) North Swedish microalgal strains able to grow and treat wastewater at low temperature and short photoperiod, Algal Research 35, 160-167.

Klemencic, M., Funk, C. (2018) Type III Metacaspases: calcium-dependent activity proposes new function for the p10 domain, New Phytologist 218, 1179-1191.

Head of research


Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Chemistry

Research area

Chemical sciences, Materials science

External funding

Formas, Swedish Research Council, The Kempe Foundation

External funding

Microalgae purify water and produce valuable compounds

Nordic algae are studied by Umeå University researchers within the project MicroBioRefine.

Chemists on IVA's 100 list

Christiane Funk and Venkata Krishna Kumar Upadhyayula are on IVA's list over sustainable research.

Latest update: 2022-03-23