ERC Professorship: ProCellDeath

01 February 2015 → 31 January 2025
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Plant developmental and reproductive biology
  • Agricultural and food sciences
    • Agricultural plant breeding and biotechnology
Programmed Cell Death
Project description

Programmed cell death (PCD) is an umbrella term for genetically encoded processes that lead to an a tightly regulated cellular suicide. In plants, diverse PCD processes are important for growth and reproduction, as well as for the reaction to the biotic and abiotic environment. Despite the undisputed importance of PCD for plant life, we still know comparatively little about the molecular mechanisms that control PCD in plants.

Over the past years, we have developed the root cap of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana into a powerful model system to study developmentally controlled programmed cell death (dPCD) in plants. The root cap is situated at the very tip of the growing plant root, protecting the delicate root tip and guiding the growing root by sensing gravity, water and nutrients. In contrast to other plant organs, the root cap shows a constant cellular turnover, in which generation and degeneration of cells have to be tightly balanced to maintain root cap organ size.

We are exploiting this system of developmentally controlled PCD to address fundamental questions on plant cell death regulation: How do differentiating plant cells prepare for cell death? How is cell death triggered precisely at the correct time and place? Which mechanisms do plant cells employ to terminate their vital functions in a controlled way?

With a combination of genetics, cell biological, cell physiological and modelling approaches, we strive to obtain answers to these intriguing fundamental questions of plant biology.