Kaisa Kajala

Environmental signaling of plant cell types

Kaisa Kajala

Multicellular life depends on multiple cell types working together in an intricately coordinated manner. Each cell type plays a role for the fitness of the plant. These roles are fulfilled by specific developmental, structural, and metabolic cell traits, regulated by specific gene regulatory networks. For example, exodermis is a protective cell type in the root, and exodermis provides it protection through differentiation steps that lead to deposition of lignin and/or suberin in the cell wall. The regulatory networks controlling these differentiation steps dynamically integrate positional, developmental, and environmental signals. These cell type-specific networks have always sparked my curiosity, and the key questions my group focuses on are:

  • How do cells know who they are? In other words, what are the signaling networks underlying cell type identity?

  • How did various cell types evolve? How did the signaling and regulatory networks of various cell types change across the evolution of (flowering) plants?

  • How do cell types process environmental signals? Firstly: how do cell type traits respond to environment? And secondly: how are the environmental signals integrated into the developmental regulatory networks?

My group uses a few different cell types and environmental cues to study these topics. The approaches we use include high-throughput sequencing, histology, developmental biology, genetics, and physiology with a diversity of plants species. Current projects focus on exodermis, a protective barrier cell type found in roots and its response to drought; stem cell types in response to far red light; and cell types of Arabidopsis leaf in response to touch.

About Kaisa Kajala