What do neighbouring plants cells share with each other?
Resources? Information about intruders? Developmental instructions? Gossip? Probably all of the above! The fact that they can do this in an efficient manner lies with specialized, subcellular structures called plasmodesmata. These are membranous ‘tunnels’ that bridge the cytoplasm of 2 adjacent cells. Cells can control the structure of their plasmodesmata over time, and thereby control the flow of molecules between them.
We’re interested in how plasmodesmata mediate signalling in a stem cell context. Here, good agreement on what roles each cell should have needs to be robustly reached. In plants the spatial relationship among neighbouring cells is important to communicate and adjust these roles. Thus, the dynamic nature of plasmodesmata makes them suitable channels via which to organize the trafficking of developmental signals across a tissue.
The main focus of this team is to gain a fundamental understanding on the cellular mechanisms that allow plasmodesmata to control signal dissemination. To this end, we identify key plasmodesmal regulators and determine their precise molecular and cellular mode of action. For this research, we use the moss Physcomitrium patens as a model system. The straightforward tissue geometries of this plant allow us to directly measure the exchange of molecules between live cells and connect findings on intercellular communication directly to altered decisions during development.