Joao Ramalho: Uncovering regulators of plant cell polarity and cell division orientation

Multicellular organisms rely on spatial information to generate and organize cell-types into tissues, organs, and ultimately, a functional body. Establishment of cell polarity is a universal trait of living systems that allows cells to perceive and act upon spatial information. Similar to other eukaryotes, plants exploit polarity for a multitude of essential developmental and homeostatic processes. Importantly, diversification of plant cell-types during embryogenesis often requires changes in cell division plane orientation downstream of cell polarity. As plant cells are unable to migrate due to the presence of a rigid cell wall, ACDs have a prominent role in the generation and organization of tissues into a functional organism. Despite the importance of cell polarity for plant development and function, the molecular machineries responsible for establishment and implementation of cellular asymmetries remain poorly understood. In this project we use a forward genetics approach to identify factors involved in polarity establishment and asymmetric cell division during embryogenesis in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We further aim to understand the evolution of asymmetry generation machineries by analyzing the function of conserved factors in more basal model plants such as Marchantia polymorpha. With this project we expect to identify conserved regulators of cell polarity and ACD, thus allowing for a deeper understanding of pattern formation in plants.