I am always eager to talk to students about research. For those interested in a semester-long project, BIOL 305 offers the opportunity to carry out real research in a supportive, collaborative setting. For those interested in a longer commitment, I am happy to discuss our year-long honors program.
I study the process by which new lateral roots form. The plant hormone auxin stimulates expansion and division in a single cell that eventually forms all of the structures and organization found in the main root. These events begin deep inside the tissues of the parent root. How then does the new root move through those tissues to reach the soil? Cell-to-cell cohesion is critical to life, yet this is a situation in which cell separation must occur. The mechanisms that lead to lateral root emergence have been debated for more than 100 years without resolution. Today, we use the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, its mutants, and cutting-edge molecular tools to answer this question. I hypothesize that enzymes that degrade pectin (the substance which makes jams jell ) help plants control cell separation during the formation of new roots. We are using molecular genetic tools to understand the expression and regulation of these enzymes and the genes that code for them.
Ten Tusscher, KH, Laskowski, M (2017) Periodic lateral root priming, what makes it tick. Plant Cell. 29, 432-444.