The discolouration of tree leaves in autumn is a sign of senescence, a kind of programmed cell death. However, the leaves do not simply die off – plants first degrade cellular macromolecules and export the nutrients to young tissues, seeds or storage organs. In order to better understand this complex recycling programme, the group led by Professor Reinhard Kunze is focusing on a number of topics. They are investigating, for example, which membrane proteins or other transporters play a role in nutrient remobilisation in the model plant Arabidopsis and in oilseed rape, and looking at how far senescence determines nitrogen use efficiency in oilseed rape. A second research topic are plant transposons, which have been dubbed ‘jumping genes’ since they can change their position within the genome. However, these mobile elements can also cause severe mutations and genome damage when they are jumping too frequently. To prevent this, plants have developed ingenious epigenetic regulatory mechanisms. The research group is investigating these mechanisms to better understand the role of tranposons in evolution and to develop improved biological mutagenesis tools.