Multicellular organisms cope with the challenge of maintaining efficient communication between different organs and tissues to coordinate growth and responses to the environment. Both, plants and animals produce biologically active compounds such as small peptides that move between cells through the vascular system or intercellular spaces and regulate plethora of developmental processes and stress responses. In plants, in addition to major hormones, including auxin, cytokinin, gibberellin, abscisic acid, and brassinosteroids, a myriad of secreted peptides (more than 1000 in Arabidopsis) orchestrate optimal growth and adaptation to environmental changes. Remarkably, plants evolved a large number of leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinases (LRR-RLKs) to sense a wide range of ligands, from cell wall damage-induced polysaccharides, to steroid hormones and secreted peptides.
Our research aims to explore the role of CLE peptides in the formation of water conductive tissue called xylem, as well as to investigate the molecular mechanisms of CLE-peptides-dependent root adaptations. In addition, to allow for a better understanding of the biological functions of these peptides, we aim to develop new tools to tag and track the precursors and mature CLE peptides in planta. In part in collaboration with structural biology and organic chemistry laboratories, we will use a combination of genetic approaches, molecular design, organic synthesis, cell biology, biochemistry, high-resolution confocal microscopy, high throughput analysis of gene specific expression patterns, and plant physiology assays. The outcomes of this work will shed light on the biological importance of CLE peptides and their receptors as well as lead to a better understanding of mechanisms of root stress adaptations.