Multicellular organisms require cell-to-cell communication and means to exchange nutrients and signaling molecules between cells. Plants have developed remarkable cellular machines - the Plasmodesmata (PD) pores - which interconnect every single cell within the plant body and are decisive for development, environmental adaptation, pathogen infection and defense signaling. The importance of PD relies in their function in the direct transport of molecules such as proteins, RNAs, ions, and metabolites. However, how PD contribute to the regulation of transport and coordinate responses at a multicellular level remain unclear. Additionally, despite the importance of PD, they remain recalcitrant to composition identification, structure determination and functional dissection.
The major focus of our research is to unravel PD composition and development, and to understand their function as cell-cell bridges for communication, nutrient transport and viral spread within plants. To address these questions, my team use a variety of cutting-edge experimental approaches including advanced imaging, genome editing, genetically encoded biosensors, proximity labeling and cryo-ET.