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Chemical Genetic Dissection of Plant Cellulose Synthesis
Department of Horticulture
Plant cell walls are composed of highly glycosylated proteins and polysaccharides, including pectin, hemicelluloses and cellulose, which form a complex and dynamic structure that modulates cell expansion. The primary cell wall polysaccharide is cellulose, and it stands as the most abundant biopolymer in the world. Cellulose has long been utilized by the forage, pulp, paper and textile industries, and has been targeted as a vehicle for renewable energy and carbon sequestration.
In addition cellulose and cell wall structure are vital to fruit softening and ripening processes in horticulture crops worldwide. Despite the agricultural and industrial importance, cellulose biosynthesis in plants is still poorly understood.
The overarching goal of this research is to develop small molecule probes that inhibit specific aspects of the cellulose biosynthetic process, which can then be used to dissect underlying molecular processes.
2010 Project Description
ACTIVITIES Teaching, PLS220, PLS623, GEN300. The latter class is being developed and has been taught for two years.
GRADUATE STUDENT ADVISING Ph.D. Darby Harris (University of Kentucky, Lexington) Molecular and chemical dissection of plant cellulose synthesis. Jan 1st-2008 to present- Meera Nair (University of Kentucky, Lexington) The molecular role of phyosteryl glycosides in plants Aug 2008 - present. Arun Sampathkumar (Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology)- External Advisor. Role of actin cytoskelton during primary wall cellulose production Masters: Matthew Simson (University of Kentucky, Lexington) Defining and correlating grape quality attributes in Kentucky Aug 2008 to present-
POST DOCTORAL ASSOCIATE ADVISING Jozsef Stork - June 2008 - present Venugopal Mendu Dec 2009- present Carloalberto Petti Feb 2010 - present Nihar Nyak Oct 2009 - June (2010) Xia (Summer) Yu - May 2010 - present
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENT ADVISING 1. Northern Kentucky University- Megan Reynolds, summer 2008 and 2009 2. Colby College- Rachael Strang Summer 2009 3. UKY Horticulture- Carey Grable Summer and Fall 2009 4. UKY Agricultural Biotechnology- Brian Williams Fall- Spring 2009-10 5. UKY Agricultural Biotechnology - Kendell Corbin Fall- Spring 2009-10 6. UKY Agricultural Biotechnology - Jordan Clay Fall- Spring 2009-10 7. UKY Agricultural Biotechnology - Rebecca Hall- Fall 2010- present 8. UKY Agricultural Biotechnology - Scott Parker- Fall 2010- present 9. UKY Agricultural Biotechnology - Robert Brooks- Fall 2010- present 10. UKY Horticulture- Tristin Considine- Fall 2010- present -Sophmore 11. UKY Horticulture- Andrew Shearer- Fall 2010- present -Sophmore K-12
RESEARCH STUDENT ADVISING 1. David Smith- (Junior) Asbury College, 2. David McChesney (Gatton Academy For Science and Mathematics), 3. Eliana Greissworth: Sayre School
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH - Scientific outreach has included several press interactions including television interviews for local news channels (Channel 27 and KYTV) as well as international interviews for Voice of America series. Web and newspaper articles have been references (more the 15 web sites covered our bioenergy agriculture papers and several newspapers). Gordon Research Conference coverage.
SERVICES INVITED SPEAKER - Outreach and committee member - Scientific testimony for Kentucky legislative taskforce on bioenergy agriculture- Titled Biotechnology for biofuels. - Plant and Animal Genome, San Diego, CA- Jan 5th 2010 - Cornell University Department of Plant Biology - UK President's Sustainability Advisory Committee- Energy Futures Subcommittee
ACADEMIC SERVICE - Reviewer for academic journal publications, and federal funding agencies: - UK Beckman Scholar Mentoring Committee, UK Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee
PRODUCTS One provisional patent application
DISSEMINATION Horitcultural Research Farm Annual Tour-
DEBOLT LAB- bioenergy agriculture potential.
NATIONAL MEETINGS ORGANIZED Integrated Research, Education, and Extension to Enable Sustainable Biofuel Production - A proposed workshop to organize research efforts in the Southeast U.S.
Characterization of genes and the proteins they encode involved in cell wall synthesis. Our interest lies in cell shape and morphogenesis as well as the question of how extracellular cues are translated through the cell wall to respond to abiotic or biotic interaction. The use of cell walls for biobased products such as food, feed and fuel are of paramount economic importance.
We are exploring the use of marginal lands, such as those previously used for mining or degraded agricultural lands, to support bioenergy agriculture. Within this area of research we have used our understanding of cell walls and plant biomass to estimate the relative importance of marginal land to produce renewable biomass for energy in the state of Kentucky. The resulted publication and testimony to the Kentucky legislative taskforce and aided in disseminating information of potential impact of bioenergy agriculture to the state.
Stork J, Harris D, Williams B+, Griffiths J, Haughn G, Beisson F, Li Y, Mendu V, DeBolt S (2010) CELLULOSE SYNTHASE9 serves a non-redundant role in secondary cell wall synthesis in the radial wall of Arabidopsis epidermal testa cells Plant Physiology 153: 580-589.
Harris D, Bulone V, Ding H and DeBolt S (2010) Tools for analyzing cellulose biosynthesis Plant Physiology 153: 420-426.
Joshi JP, Thammannagowda S, Fujino T, Gou J, Avci U, Haigler C, McDonnell LM, Mansfield SD, Menghesa B, Carpita N, Harris D, DeBolt S and Peter G (2010). Perturbation of wood cellulose synthesis causes pleiotropic effects in transgenic aspen Molecular Plant (in press)
Harris D and DeBolt S (2010) Synthesis, regulation and utilization of lignocellulosic biomass Plant Biotechnology Journal 8. 244-262.