School of Biological Sciences

Michael Knoblauch

Name: Michael Knoblauch
Field of Study: Plant Cell Biology
Title: Professor / Director FMIC
Degrees: Ph.D., Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany
Homepage: Click
Office: Abelson 318
Phone: 509-335-3052
Fax: 509-335-3184
Mailing Address: School of Biological Sciences
Washington State University
PO Box 644236
Pullman, WA 99164-4236

Research Interests

Dr. Knoblauch's work deals with the cell biology and the physiology of plant tissues, especially the phloem. The phloem represents one of the most specialized plant tissues and is, due to its high content of nutrients, a primary target for pests. Initially he developed methodologies for the observation of the phloem in the living, translocating state to elucidate fundamental questions of the mechanism of phloem transport and protection mechanisms. This finally led to the discovery of the contractility of phloem-specific protein bodies which have been called forisomes. Forisomes represent a defense mechanism by reversibly plugging the sieve tubes in response to injury.

This discovery represents a link to his second major interest, the identification and characterization of biomimetic materials to provide a basis for emerging technologies and applications. Forisomes contract anisotropically in response to divalent cations like Ca2+, or to pH, without requirement for a source of chemical energy such as ATP. The response is fully reversible. Diffusional electrotitration allows electric control of forisome contraction and bending. Forisomes can be isolated in large numbers and remain functional after prolonged periods of storage. This unique combination of useful properties renders forisomes a paradigmatic model for protein-based biomimetic nano- and micro-actuators. Besides the forisomes, different cellular structures have been found in the phloem, some of which are restricted to this tissue. However, the function of many of them is still obscure. He believes that pure research into basic mechanisms of cell function is likely to produce novel and innovative tools to solve problems in fields such as nanotechnology and smart material research.

2001 Best-Dissertation-Award, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany

2002 Wilhelm-Pfeffer-Price from the German Botanical Society

Representative Publications


Park J, Knoblauch M, Okita T, Edwards G (2009) Structural changes in the vacuole and cytoskeleton are key to development of the two cytoplasmic domains supporting single-cell C-4 photosynthesis in Bienertia sinuspersici. Planta, 229 (2), 369-382

Pelissier, HC, Peters WS, Collier R, Van Bel AJE, Knoblauch M (2008) GFP Tagging of Sieve Element Occlusion (SEO) Proteins Results in Green Fluorescent Forisomes. Plant and Cell Physiology, 49 (11), 1699-1710

Peters WS, Knoblauch M, Warmann SA, Pickard WF, Shen AQ (2008) Kinetics of anisotropic contraction in forisomes: Simple models won’t fit. Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton, 65 (5), 368-378

Noll GA, Fontanellaz ME, Rueping B, Ashoub A, Van Bel AJE, Fischer R, Knoblauch M, Prufer D (2007) Spatial and temporal regulation of the forisome gene for1 in the phloem during plant development. Plant Molecular Biology 65 (3), 285-294

Peters WS, Knoblauch M, Warmann SA, Schnetter R, Shen AQ, Pickard WF (2007) Tailed Forisomes of Canavalia gladiata: a New Model to Study Ca2+-Driven Protein Contractility. Annals of Botany 100, 101-109

Peters WS, Schnetter R, Knoblauch M (2007) Reversible birefringence suggests a role for molecular self-assembly in forisome contractility. Functional Plant Biology 34 (4), 302-306

Peters WS, Van Bel AJE, Knoblauch M (2006) The geometry of the forisomes-sieve-element- sieve plate complex in the phloem of Vicia faba L. leaflets. Journal of Experimental Botany 57 (12), 3091-3098

Shen AQ, Hemlington B, Knoblauch M, Peters WS, Pickard WF (2006) Forisome-based biomimetic smart materials. Journal of Smart Structures and Systems 2 (3), 225 – 235

Pickard WF, Knoblauch M, Peters WS, Shen AQ (2006) Prospective energy density in the forisome, a new smart material. Materials Science & Engineering C, 26 (1), 104 – 112

School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 644236, Pullman WA 99164-4236, 509-335-3553, Contact Us
The SBS main office is located in 312 Abelson Hall on the Pullman campus.