The long-term goal of research in the Haswell lab is to reveal the molecular mechanisms that underlie the perception and transduction of mechanical signals in plants. Many organisms sense and respond to mechanical forces, and one way in which this can be accomplished is through the activation of mechanosensitive (MS) ion channels. Land plants provide a particularly relevant model system for the study of MS channels, as numerous MS channel activities have been identified in plant membranes, and they are implicated in a wide range of physiological processes. However, we do not know the molecular identity of the MS channels involved, nor how their activities might be regulated. To begin to gain insight into the plant mechanosensory apparatus, we have undertaken the characterization of ten Arabidopsis thaliana homologs of the bacterial mechanosensor MscS. We have discovered that plant MscS homologs are not simple safety valves, but are regulated channels with distinct and diverse roles at the organellar, cellular, and organismal level. Click here for coverage in the popular press and here for project outcomes aimed at a general audience.
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