Margo Smit: Identity regulation in the Arabidopsis embryo - Finding the master regulators of vascular identity

During plant embryogenesis the basic plant structure needs to be formed. One major identity that needs to be laid down is the vascular identity. Vascular tissues (coloured in figure) in the mature plant are responsible for transport of water, minerals, sugars, signals and much more. In addition they are the woody tissue, providing strength to the plant through their thick secondary cell walls. At the early globular stage of embryogenesis four cells are specified as the first vascular cells (figure), these eventually form the complete vascular bundle through many rounds of cell division and patterning.

Using the embryo allows us to focus on what genetic components are responsible for the specification of this important identity while reducing the noise from other plant processes such as patterning and differentiation. In my project I look for transcription factors that either promote or repress vascular identity. I study these genes by looking at their localization using confocal microscopy and by using mutants and ectopic expression lines where I look at their effect on vascular markers.