Master projects

Understanding spatial accommodating responses during lateral root formation

Mechanical forces are not just exerted by the environment; they are intrinsic to all levels of plant architecture. Turgor-driven pressure of plant cells can be higher than that of a car tire. It puts tremendous forces onto cell walls and drives changes in cell shape. This has driven unique mechanisms to control organ formation in comparison to metazoans. The fascinating interplay between forces and local cellular reorganization is poorly understood. Growth of lateral roots is a prominent example of a developmental process in which mechanical forces are generated. Lateral roots grow from a single cell layer that resides deep within the primary root. On its way out, lateral roots grow through the overlying endodermal, cortical and epidermal cell layers. We have demonstrated that endodermal cells actively accommodate lateral root formation (Vermeer et al., 2014). Responses include a dramatic volume loss and a controlled degradation of their lignin-based paracellular diffusion barrier. Interfering genetically with these accommodating responses in the endodermis completely blocks cell proliferation in the pericycle. The lateral root system provides a unique opportunity to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms how mechanical forces and intercellular communication regulate spatial accommodation during plant development.

We are combining live cell imaging together with functional genomics to understand the mechanisms underlying spatial accommodation during lateral root formation. Preliminary data suggests the involvement of the cytoskeleton, ion channels and secondary cell wall modification in this process. We have master projects available on these topics in the lab. If you have a keen interest in cell biology, microscopy and development, come and join us.

We are searching for a highly motivated Master student interested in cell biology, microscopy and development. You will characterise several candidate regulators of spatial accommodation. Thesis work involves molecular cloning, transformation, live cell imaging, image analysis and mutant characterisation. 

The successful candidate will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Joop Vermeer and PhD students in the Vermeer lab. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us: Joop.Vermeer@botinst.uzh.ch. We are based at the Botanical garden room P2-15.