Understanding the mechanism of cellulose synthesis and assembly
The plant cell wall is a complex network of carbohydrate-based polymers that controls overall plant morphogenesis and protects the cell against biotic and abiotic stress factors. Among the cell wall components, cellulose is the main biomass contributor, and is the most abundant biopolymer on Earth. Furthermore, cellulose is essential for several industries, including the food-, textile-, paper-, and biofuels industries. Despite the prominent features of plant cellulose, the mechanisms underlying its synthesis and remodelling are poorly understood, especially those related with microfibril structure. Our findings provide us with tools to address previously intractable questions about the role of proteins associated with cellulose synthesis in cell wall architecture and stress response. In our group, we explore the mechanism of cellulose synthesis and assembly and its influence in plant growth and defence against pathogens. This project will make an important contribution to understand the mechanisms of cell wall biosynthesis and differentiation and the interactions of plants with their environment. Furthermore, the fundamental knowledge gained will serve as a stepping stone for tailoring cellulose synthesis for agro-industrial applications.
Characterization of the first layers of plant defence against pathogens
Plants are essential to cover the demand of food, fibre and biofuels. Among the factors that limit our ability to meet those needs are the pathogens that cause extensive annual yield losses of crops. The first battle between plants and pathogens occurs in the plant apoplast, separated from the host cell interior by the first layers of plant cell defence: the cell wall and the plasma membrane. Through plasma membrane localized receptors, the host perceives the intruder and the CW alterations that it causes. This information is sent across the plasma membrane via endocytosis, activating a plant immune response. Clearly, the initial phase of infection determines the fate of the interaction. Our long-term objective is to identify and characterize the first layers of plant response against pathogens, paying special attention to those related with the plant CW.
We believe that expanding our knowledge about the key elements of the plant first layers of defence against pathogens will permit a better manipulation of the host response to stop the pathogen infection at its very beginning. Consequently, we might expect a reduction in the plant yield losses and in the treatments used to control the pests, which will have a clear impact on the agri-food sector.