Systems analysis of peptide-mediated cell-cell communication in the plant root by in situ sequencing

Abiotic stress such as drought or suboptimal phosphate levels impacts effective crop growth in many regions throughout the world. This type of stress reduces crop production by affecting root growth and root system architecture, which are in turn crucially controlled by cell-cell communication mechanisms. Peptide-mediated paracrine control has recently gained attention as an essential role-player in this context. In order to achieve progress in this field, considerable experimental innovation and conceptual developments are required to appropriately study and describe intercellular, cell-transcending events in a heterogeneous organ, such as peptide-mediated cell-cell communication in roots. 

This project aims to study and describe how peptide-mediated cell-cell communication regulates root growth and root system architecture under normal and abiotic stress conditions, thereby contributing to the design of interventions to alleviate the adverse effects of abiotic stress on plant development and growth. We propose a systems biology approach using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to achieve this. We aim to define a minimal set of genes driving peptide-mediated cell-cell communication in the growing root, and will develop an integrated experimental and computational in situ RNA sequencing platform to perform a targeted analysis of these components and describe their relationships induced by cell-cell communication.  

This systems biology approach will be exploited to identify the key responses at the level of peptide-mediated cell communication under diverse abiotic stress conditions, and will lay the foundations for future interventions and plant design in order to improve the efficacy of plant primary production in abiotic stress situations.

Project consortium coordinator and Swiss consortium partner:
Prof. Manfred Claassen, ETH Zurich


Prof. Manfred Claassen
Institute of Molecular Systems Biology
ETH Zurich
Auguste-Piccard-Hof 1
CH - 8093 Zurich
phone +41 44 633 07 33 

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