Plant Cellular and Molecular Processes (PCMP)

Core Members: Sonia Gazzarrini, Clare Hasenkampf, Dan Riggs, Greg Vanlerberghe, Rongmin Zhao 

Research Focus: Mechanisms of Growth and Development in Model Plant Species

The Plant Cellular and Molecular Processes (PCMB) group includes faculty that are physically clustered in a large open-concept laboratory space. The group has found this to be particularly beneficial to promoting interaction and technology-transfer between lab members, particularly graduate students. The group also maintains significant plant growth facilities (reach-in and walk-in chambers with the capacity for fine control of irradiance, temperature, humidity and CO2) and maintains a regular PCMB seminar series that provides graduate students the opportunity to present their on-going research to a local audience. Collectively, the PCMB group has significant expertise in biochemistry, molecular genetics, molecular biology, physiology and advanced microscopy. The group uses a combination of these techniques to address fundamental questions about plant growth and development, metabolism, reproduction, and response to environmental cues and stressors. Collectively, the group works on a range of monocot and dicot species, but with an expressed focus on model species such as Arabidopsis, barley, and tobacco.

One focus of study in the group is investigations of the network of interactions between transcription factors and hormones. Currently such studies are examining these complex regulatory networks for the important processes of cell differentiation, plant architecture, seed dormancy, seed germination and seed development (Dan Riggs, Sonia Gazzarrini). Another major focus is cellular control of protein homeostasis and quality control via the interplay of chaperones and the proteasome (Rongmin Zhao). A third theme of research in the group is chromatin, chromosome and nuclear structure and the changes in these structures that affect gene regulation, cell division and reproduction (Clare Hasenkampf). Lastly, the impacts of biotic and abiotic stress on primary metabolic pathways (photosynthesis, respiration, N assimilation, ion transport) and defense responses against stress are being examined, in both model species and in the world’s most important cereals (Greg Vanlerberghe).