Plant Developmental Signaling
Outline of Research and Education
Our laboratory is dedicated to studying mechanisms governing the dynamic growth of plants in response to genetic programs and external environments. By combining molecular biology and genetics methods with unique live imaging and AI-based image analysis, we seek to unravel novel principles governing plant development and growth regulation.
Major Research Topics
Dynamic plant growth in response to environmental stimuli
Plants have evolved the ability to flexibly change their body and organ shapes in response to fluctuating environments. Because plants lack a central nervous system or musculoskeletal system, changing their organ shape and growth vector relies on the ability of each cell to act individually yet in a highly coordinated manner. How plants accomplish such a complex process is a great mystery. We are seeking to elucidate the mechanisms by which plant organs grow dynamically in changing environments using high-resolution live imaging combined with AI-based image analysis and mathematical modeling (Fig. 1).
Unique function of the root cap as a soil environment sensor
The root cap covers the root tip and thereby constitutes the front line between plants and the soil environment. Besides physically protecting the root meristem, the root cap plays an essential role to promote plant growth by gravity sensing, friction reduction, and perception of soil environments. The root cap features a unique property in that its constituent cells periodically turn over by concerted cell renewal at the innermost layer and autonomous cell detachment at the outermost layer. We are seeking to unravel the mechanisms underlying the periodic cell turnover and functional specialization of the root cap cells by using live imaging combined with omics analysis (Fig. 2).
Evolution of sexual reproduction systems in land plants
Sexual reproduction is a fundamental process to enhance genetic diversity in evolution. Elucidating the regulatory mechanisms of sexual reproduction is an important research topic to increase food production and energy security. Studying gamete differentiation, however, is difficult in conventional seed plant models. We use bryophyte models to overcome this problem and identified master regulators of sexual differentiation conserved in land plants. Using these regulators as a starting point, we are trying to elucidate the mechanism underlying gamete differentiation and fertilization in plants (Fig. 3).
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- Fujiwara et al., Curr. Biol., 33, 886-898, 2023