Cell to cell communication is essential for the co-ordination of responses in all multicellular organisms.
Research in the Faulkner lab addresses how cell-to-cell communication in plants contributes to the initiation and execution of plant immune responses.
Plant cells are connected to their neighbours via plasma membrane-lined pores called plasmodesmata. Plasmodesmata bridge the cell wall and directly connect the cytoplasm of neighbouring cells. The Faulkner lab, have observed that plasmodesmata dynamically respond (i.e. they open and close) when cells perceive a pathogen. They aim to determine how plasmodesmata respond to pathogen signals and how this is translated in to a functional change in their aperture.
Many classes of molecules can move between cells through plasmodesmata. Thus, whether plasmodesmata are open or closed can define whether cells can exchange signals and resources. In addition to investigating how plasmodesmata are regulated, the lab aim to determine what types of molecules move through plasmodesmata during pathogen invasion and what signals they carry to surrounding cells.
A variety of pathogens can infect and invade host cells by exploiting plasmodesmata. Some pathogens use plasmodesmata as sites where they can cross between cells, but they can also send their own molecules through plasmodesmata in to cells they haven’t yet infected. The Faulkner lab are interested to work out how pathogens exploit host plasmodesmata and what infection-related signals pass from cell to cell.
The lab focuses on the following questions:
- How do plasmodesmata open and close?
- Why do cells communicate during immune responses?
- How do pathogens exploit plasmodesmata during infection?
The Faulkner lab is frequently asked about the following methods, which are detailed via the links below;