We are currently advertising National Productivity Investment Fund Industrial CASE studentships with a deadline of the 16th July 2018.

02 / 10 / 2017

Intercellular traffic control: how do plant cells regulate the traffic of molecules between cells? (FAULKNER_J18DTP)

how to apply

Plant cells are connected to their neighbours via 'tubes' called plasmodesmata, creating an interconnected cytoplasm (the symplast) that connects the cytoplasm of cells in the roots to those in the leaves. Small, soluble molecules can freely move within the symplast if the plasmodesmata are open, but plasmodesmata can open and close in response to a range of environmental or developmental signals to control and how far molecules can travel in the plant.

A plasmodesma opens and closes by the turnover (synthesis and degradation) of callose in the cell wall that surrounds it. Many signals trigger the activity of callose synthases and glucanases to control how open plasmodesmata are. This suggests that all the signals converge at one or more core regulators that ultimately control callose synthases and glucanases. We want to identify these core regulators so that we can understand how different signals control plasmodesmata and cell-to-cell connectivity. If we understand how these regulators work, we can optimize and enhance their activity to control the molecular exchange between cells in different contexts. For example, bacterial and viral pathogens try to force the plasmodesmata open during infection - by controlling the plasmodesmal regulators we can enable to plant to fight this process and enhance defence.

This project will take advantage of our understanding of how plasmodesmata respond to different pathogen signals to identify the core regulatory elements of plasmodesmata. The student will use genetics, molecular biology, live cell imaging and protein biochemistry to identify and characterise critical components of plasmodesmata and establish understanding of how intercellular signals are controlled in plants.