Danila Group – Plant Cell Biology and Intercellular Communication
My group’s long-term goal is to make crops more climate-resilient and disease-resistant. Plasmodesmata (PD) are the conduits connecting the cytoplasm of plant cells and are essential for transport of macromolecules in plants. PD facilitate the intercellular transport typically observed as cytoplasmic streaming under the microscope. The vital role PD play in plant growth and development encompasses different plant tissues. In roots, PD primarily contribute to water and solute transport. In leaves, PD are fundamental for metabolite exchange and sugar unloading during photosynthesis. In stems, the presence of PD is crucial for successful grafting as they facilitate exchange of genetic material between the rootstock and the scion. PD also play important roles in resistance to pathogen infection, and contribute to the plant’s ability to deter predators and respond to environmental stimuli. Therefore, understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying PD development will provide new avenues to improve crops. Using cutting-edge bioimaging, synthetic biology and '-omics technology, our current research focuses on building an atlas of leaf plasmodesmata density in plants across organ development to map the genetic switches involved.