Outline of the Project

Project Title : The plant cell wall as information processing system

Project Leader: Kazuhiko Nishitani (Professor of Plant Physiology at Tohoku University)

Terms of Project : FY 2012-FY 2016

Fig. 1. Information-processing in the cell wall


Although plants do not have a central nervous system like animals, individual plant cells have acquired highly autonomous capabilities in terms of information processing. This autonomous cell wall system mediates whole-plant regulation and function. The cellular information processing system constitutes the fundamental basis of major plant processes including growth, defense, and adaptation to the environment. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying plant information processing systems are largely unknown. The hypothesis of the project is that in addition to transcriptional regulation in the nucleus, apoplastic information processing plays a critical role in regulating whole-plant function.


This research project specifically focuses on the cell wall, or apoplast, to gain insights into the information processing and self-regulation systems (Fig. 1). This project aims to dissect the molecular basis for plant-specific signal perception, processing, and responses. The goal of this project is to explore the newly identified area of apoplastic information processing. This information processing system has evolved independently in land plants. This work will establish a new approach to help elucidate unknown higher-order functions in land plants.


The major scientific significance of the proposed study is that this project will lead to novel approaches to understanding information processing regulatory systems in plants, which are distinct from conventional transcription-based systems. This achievement would lead to a paradigm shift in the study of plant cell walls and plant science in general.
In addition, the molecular dissection of any aspect of plant cell walls will provide a better understanding of global carbon resources, as plant cell walls comprise the largest fraction of the earth’s biomass. This project may directly contribute to human welfare via the development of sustainable technologies.