How cell-type specific responses lead to changes in plant growth


Nitrogen (N) is a critical nutrient for plant growth.

Limitations are perceived as stress, initiating widespread transcriptional changes that impact growth and development.

In an ongoing collaboration with the Brady Lab (UC Davis), we have elucidated a genetic circuit of transcription factors (TFs) involved in regulating the architecture of Arabidopsis root systems in response to N availability.

We have also found that many elements of this sub-network are conserved in tomato despite differences in the cellular architecture of their roots.

Elucidating this circuit was challenging because the expression of key TFs is limited to just a few cell types.

This project will examine how this network coordinates expression changes across cell types and investigate how it has been remodelled across species.

This will lead to an understanding of how cell-type specific nitrogen responses mediate developmental plasticity in plant roots, and advance our understanding of how regulatory elements and transcriptional networks evolve. It will also reveal novel strategies for engineering crops with increased nutrient use efficiencies.

The student will receive training in single-cell sequencing and data analysis techniques, as well as in plant molecular biology and genetics.


1. Gaudinier et al (2018) Nature. 563: 259–264 2.
2. Kajala et al (2021) Cell. 184(12):3333-3348