Professor Liam Dolan has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to identify the mechanism that individual plant cells use to make the top of the cell different from the bottom of the cell. This is important in plants that develop from single cells, because this decision determines there the leafy structures and rooting structures will form. Discovering this mechanism will reveal how plants use environmental cues to orient their growth and development.
Every cell in an organism – plant, animal or bacteria – is polarised. Polarisation is the process in which one end of a cell becomes different from the other. Polarity is important for the function of cells. For example, the two opposite poles of the single cell that develops into a fruit fly develop into the head and abdomen respectively. This shows how the polarity of a single cell translates into the polarity of an entire animal. While some components of the mechanisms that are required for cell polarisation are known, we know nothing about how an entirely unpolarised plant cell becomes polarised.
Liam’s research aims to discover the molecules that impose polarity on unpolarised cells, and this research will exploit recently developed technologies that have been developed in Liam’s lab in combination with state of the art imaging technologies.
The research is important because it will uncover one of the fundamental processes that governs how plants grow in response to environmental signals that has evaded scientists until now.