Our group is interesting in understanding how shapes are grown in nature. Specifically, we focus on shape growth in plants at the organ and cellular levels. As a growth system, plants exhibit unique properties due to their cell wall: the wall allows for high pressures to be reached within the cell, it provides the shape information for cells and thus organs, and it is the glue holding plant cells together and in fixed positions relative to their neighbors. Our group focuses on the physical process of growth, the end product of any genetic or hormonal pathway. We explore how shapes develop by examining the physical changes in cells and tissue that permit/restrict growth and linking these to biochemical changes, signalling processes, and molecular instructions. There are several projects available for students within the group focusing on the areas of cell-cell connectivity, cell shape, and growth analysis. Specific skills to be gained during a project would encompass: gene cloning and functional analysis, qPCR and transcriptome analysis, creation of transgenic plants, confocal and scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, analysis of mechanical properties, kinematic analysis of growth, and work in various plant species. We also work at creating synthetic materials which mimic the amazing material properties of cell walls that give them unprecedented strength and flexibility. If you have ever looked at a biological object and wondered how such shapes and patterns were made, this could be the project for you!
- P Milani, SA Braybrook, A Boudaoud. 2013. Shrinking the hammer: micromechanical approaches to morphogenesis. Journal of Experimental Botany. (first published online July 19, 2013)
- SA Braybrook, A Peaucelle (2013) Mechano-Chemical Aspects of Organ Formation in Arabidopsis thaliana: The Relationship between Auxin and Pectin. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57813. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057813
- A Peaucelle*, SA Braybrook*, L Le Guillou, E Bron, C Kuhlemeier, H Hofte. 2011. Pectin-Induced Changes in Cell Wall Mechanics Underlie Organ Initiation in Arabidopsis.Current Biology