Current Projects

Summary: Plasmodesmata (PD) and its role in developmental signalling


Dissecting the role of plasmodesmata in symbiotic nitrogen fixing interactions.

Formation and patterning of lateral root primordia are miss-regulated in mutants in plasmodesmata located 1,3 beta glucanases, involved in callose regulation (Benitez-Alfonso et al., 2013). We are currently investigating how the expression of these proteins affect the formation of nodules in Medicago truncatula roots  infected with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia). The aim is to understand the role of callose and plasmodesmata in regulating the formation of symbiotic interactions in nitrogen depleted and sufficient conditions.

Researcher involved: Rocio Gaudioso-Pedraza. PhD student.

Funded by 110 University of Leeds scholarship (2014-2017)

Characterizing signalling pathways affecting plasmodesmata and the root response to nutrient and water depletion.

We are using symplastic reporters to study changes in plasmodesmata transport and structure in response to N, P, K and osmotic stress (simulating drought). The aim is to discover factors and components affecting intercellular signalling, thus the plant response to these stress conditions. Mutants and transgenic lines affecting plasmodesmata permeability will indicate the importance of this pathway in concerting these responses and highlight new avenues for strategic modifications of root traits to improve plant resilience.

Researcher involved: Philip Kirk. PhD student.

Funded by BBSRC DTP (2016-2020)

The molecular composition of Plasmodesmata cell walls.

The accumulation of the polymer callose (β-1,3 glucans) in the cell wall constricts the channel aperture, modulating intercellular molecular flux. We are closely studying the proteins involved directly and indirectly in the metabolism of callose at plasmodesmata (Gaudioso-Pedraza and Benitez-Alfonso, 2014; Knox and Benitez-Alfonso, 2014). We are also dissecting the contribution of other cell wall components in regulating channel structure/aperture.

Researcher involved: Sam Amsbury. Postdoctoral researcher

Funded by Leverhulme trust (2016-2019)

The physics of cell walls at Plasmodesmata.

We are modelling the properties of cell walls around plasmodesmata using composite mixtures and soft polymer physic approaches such as NMR, rheology and AFM nanoindentation. The aim is to link structural and physico-mechanical properties  to understand the function of callose and other cell wall biopolymers in regulating the channel transport capacity. This information is essential to manipulate these channels aiming to optimize plant development and environmental responses and can reveal new properties that can be further exploited in the manufacture of new environmentally-friendly materials.

Researchers involved: Mercedes Hernandez. Postdoctoral researcher. Radwa Abou-Saleh. Postdoctoral researcher.

Funded by EPSRC First Grant (2015-2016); Leverhulme trust (2016-2019)