About the Lab
The Nakata Lab seeks to understand the basic mechanisms regulating the nutritional quality and productivity of crop plants. To accomplish this goal, we are taking an integrated approach that combines different methodologies and incorporates the use of both model and crop systems.
Current focus is to decipher the pathways of calcium oxalate crystal formation and oxalate degradation. In plant foods, oxalate exists in two general forms, soluble and insoluble, and each form can have a negative impact on the health of the person consuming the plant food. In the soluble form, oxalate can be absorbed directly from the diet and contribute to the pathological condition of renal stone formation. In the insoluble form, oxalate acts as an antinutrient by binding to certain minerals (e.g., calcium) and rendering the bound mineral unavailable for nutritional absorption.
Given the impact of oxalate on human health as well as the important roles for oxalate in the growth and development of the plant (e.g., resistance to environmental stress), a more comprehensive understanding of plant oxalates is desired. Such knowledge will allow us to rationally design strategies aimed at improving the nutritional quality (e.g., calcium bioavailability) and production (e.g., insect resistance) of plant foods.