WoW MSc student working with Lacey Samuels, Botany Department and Shawn Mansfield, Faculty of Forestry
Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer in the world and the main component of plant cell walls. The overall goal of my research is to understand how plant cells synthesize cellulose during secondary cell wall formation by studying the cellulose synthase (CesA) enzymes. In tracheary cells of Arabidopsis thaliana, the secondary cell wall is laid down by CesAs in discrete regions of the cell wall, resulting in spiral or annular wall thickenings. CesA complexes are presumably restricted to the part of the cell membrane adjacent to the thickenings, but there are no obvious constraints on their movement within the fluid cell membrane.
Through use of an inducible gene expression system that causes constitutive differentiation of all cells towards a tracheary fate, combined with fluorescently-tagged CesA proteins, I will be able to directly observe the movement of secondary cell wall CesAs as they synthesize and deposit secondary cell wall cellulose, by employing various microscopy techniques. In this way, I hope to identify and describe the various factors that control cellulose deposition in the secondary cell wall.