Programmed Cell Death (PCD) is a genetically encoded mechanism to remove unwanted cells in a precisely controlled way. As an integral part of the life cycle in both plants and animals, PCD is central to growth and development, as well as to the adaptation to a variety of extrinsic stresses. PCD occurs during many different stages of plant development, for instance in plant reproduction to eliminate non-compatible pollen tubes during the self-incompatibility (SI) response, or to maintain the organ size of the root cap. Both systems have been established as models to study the molecular mechanisms controlling plant PCD. However, we are still far from a comprehensive picture of the network controlling plant PCD, and from establishing whether there is a common core machinery governing different types of PCD.
During my ongoing FWO project, I identified several novel candidate modulators and pathways involved in the execution of SI-induced PCD using forward genetics. In the proposed research for the FWO senior fellowship, I will focus on two of the candidate pathways, aiming at elucidating how they are mechanistically involved in SI-PCD. Moreover, I will examine their roles in root cap PCD to test whether they are part of a common core mechanism controlling developmental PCD processes in plants. This project will further our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of plant PCD, providing important contribution to our general knowledge about this fundamental biological process.