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White Rose BBSRC DTP studentship University of  Leeds  2016

Unlocking Plant Intercellular Channels 

Supervisor: Dr. Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso (

Co-supervisor: Prof. Paul Knox

Plant cells are attached together by rigid cell walls that underpin the mechanical properties of plants/fruits/vegetables. Microscopic channels named plasmodesmata cross cell walls to connect the interiors of plant cells. These channels provide a route for the communication of signals and other factors that control plant growth and development. The cell wall plays a key role in regulating channel aperture but little is known about the mechanisms underlying this process. Cell wall components (such as the polysaccharide callose) are differentially distributed around the channels and their structure/accumulation determine plasmodesmata form and function.

This project will investigate the features that distinguish plasmodesmata-associated cell walls from other regions and identify specific cell wall components involved in regulating the transport capacity, mechanical properties and development of plasmodesmata.

Results from this research will contribute to the understanding of the control of intercellular communication and signalling and highlight new targets that, in the long term, can be used to manipulate the transport of proteins, sRNAs and other factors to improve crop growth and resilience to environmental changes. Another aspect of the project will identify interactions between cell wall components that can be further explored to support the generation of useful biomaterials.

More info

Relevant publications

  1. Gaudioso-Pedraza R, Benitez-Alfonso Y*. (2014) A phylogenetic approach to study the origin and evolution of plasmodesmata-localized glycosyl hydrolases family 17. Frontiers Plant Sci. 23 (5):212.
  2. Maule A, Gaudioso-Pedraza R, Benitez-Alfonso Y*. (2013) Callose deposition and symplastic connectivity are regulated prior to lateral root emergence. Commun Integr Biol. 6(6):e26531.
  3. Benitez-Alfonso Y*, Faulkner C, Pendle A., Miyashima S., Helariutta , Maule A. (2013) Symplastic intercellular connectivity regulates lateral root patterning. Dev. Cell. 26(2):136-47.
  4. Cornuault V, Manfield IW, Ralet M-C, Knox JP (2014) Epitope Detection Chromatography (EDC): a method to dissect the structural heterogeneity and interconnections of plant cell wall matrix glycans. Plant Journal 78, 715-722