The goal of our research is to understand how plant cells organize into distinct compartments and how cargoes are targeted to specific cellular organelles. Our current focus is on the targeting of membrane proteins to the vacuolar membrane (or tonoplast) and vacuole biogenesis. The vacuole is an essential organelle in plant cells. Tonoplast proteins are responsible for the transport of molecules between the vacuole and the plant cytoplasm including water and ions, which have profound impacts on cell turgor and the accumulation of metabolites, hormones and other compounds. The vacuole is also an important component of gravity perception mechanisms in plants. Because of the important roles of the vacuole for cell viability, our research has important implications for agriculture and biotechnology.
Another focus of our laboratory is the study of plant responses to environmental factors such as water deficit and nutrient deprivation. Given the predicted future constraints to agriculture due to global change and reduced soil fertility, our research may have important implications for crop productivity and food security.
We use Arabidopsis as a model system because of its available genome sequence, the myriad of genetic and biochemical tools available, and the simplicity of its requirements for growth and genetic transformation.We use cell biology, microscopy, genetics, biochemistry, small molecule inhibitors and any other trade we may need for our research.
This work is funded by generous support from the National Science Foundation (MCB-1244354) and NASA (NNX13AM49G).