Plants live a life very different from ours, animals and humans. They can't run away from danger, or move to a more comfortable places. Instead, they continuously adapt their bodies to where they are by creating new organs – lateral roots, branches, flowers, … -- according to their needs. Internal communication is essential for the coordination of these developmental processes.
Intercellular communication is also important for the production of a particular new organ: together form a particular tissue, differ from the neighbours, … Within a single cell this is no different. By controlling the cell's mechanical properties, the cell stretches in one specific direction, so the plant can grow efficiently towards the light.
In my thesis I discuss several communication processes on different levels. I start with investigating a generic transport mechanism, called symplastic transport, which is essential for the communication among cells. Next I apply this to the formation of root nodules, tiny “factories” on the roots of plants like peas and soy bean. These contain bacteria that fix nitrogen from the air, supplying the raw materials for protein rich fruits of these plants. Finally I focus on the alignment of cortical microtubules, protein filaments that control the growth related properties of individual cells.
The common theme throughout is the use of models. With these I do not aim to reproduce reality as accurately as possible, but by keeping them as simple as possible I aim for understanding the underlying mechanisms.