Plant Cell Wall Remodeling and Adaptation

Group leader: Robertas Ursache

Research project:

Elucidating molecular mechanisms underlying dynamic of suberin deposition in response to environmental stimuli

Plants have evolved a dynamic and adaptive root system in order to optimize anchorage and foraging of the soil environment for water and nutrients and to communicate with microbes. To minimize the leakage of nutrients from the vasculature and control signaling into the rhizosphere, the plant deploys a dynamic suberin-based root barrier in the older endodermal cells. Despite the discovery of several key suberin biosynthetic genes and the importance of this suberin barrier in recent studies, we still lack a spatiotemporal understanding of the basic subcellular organization of the machinery that produces suberin and controls its deposition, which is especially important in stress situations where suberin production is increased.

Moreover, our knowledge of how production and dynamics occur in natural soil conditions is very limited. In the proposed work, using long-term high-resolution confocal microscopy and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), the PhD student candidate will investigate the dynamics of suberin and suberin biosynthetic machinery during normal growth and in response to abiotic and biotic stresses. At the same time, the student will develop a multicolor toolbox to follow the dynamics of the subcellular localization of suberin biosynthetic genes grown directly on soil.

Two model systems will be employed in this project: Arabidopsis thaliana and the oilseed crop Camelina sativa,in order to facilitate an easier transfer of knowledge into agriculture. The CRAG has greenhouses and controlled environmental chambers for the development and growth of required transgenic lines and mutants, while MPIPZ has access to state-of-the-art imaging facilities as well as the ability to investigate plant responses under natural conditions. Moreover, MPIPZ also has experts in the modelling field, and collaboration is envisioned during this project to build prediction models for the behavior of suberin biosynthetic genes and suberin polymer. We therefore envision very intriguing new results that are likely to lead to updated models of how plant roots interact with and shape their environment—tools that are highly sought in the optimization of agricultural production.

Key publication

Ursache R, De Jesus Vieira Teixeira C, Dénervaud Tendon V, Gully K, De Bellis D, Schmid-Siegert E, Grube Andersen T, Shekhar V, Calderon S, Pradervand S, Nawrath C, Geldner N, Vermeer JEM. GDSL-domain proteins have key roles in suberin polymerization and degradation. Nat Plants. 2021 Mar;7(3):353-364. doi: 10.1038/s41477-021-00862-9. Epub 2021 Mar 8. PMID: 33686223; PMCID: PMC7610369.

Potential collaborations with other research groups

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ)

Root Communication with the Environment/Tonni Grube Andersen

Potential collaborations with associated partners

More information