I am working as assistant professor in the group of Plant Stress Resilience at Utrecht University.
My research focuses on understanding how plants sense and respond to cell wall modifications induced by abiotic stresses.
My goal is to unravel the molecular mechanisms behind the initiation of the cell wall modifications and dissect both the sensing mechanism and the signaling pathways activated as a consequence of cell wall damage/alteration.
Expanding our knowledge on how we could generate plants that can tolerate extreme environments is crucial to surviving a changing climate.
Cell walls are one of the most complex and fascinating plant structures. Their tensile strength allows the formation of turgor pressure, creating the mechanical rigidity essential for plant life. During developmental processes, cell walls are modified to allow elongation and expansion. Abiotic stress can also alter the structure and composition of the walls, triggering signaling responses induced by the perception of an altered self.
I have recently discovered that salinity responses can be alleviated by inhibiting the activity of cell wall enzymes involved in controlling pectin modification.
This example highlights the importance of cell wall modification and perception in inducing responses to salt. Changing the activity of enzymes involved in determining cell wall stiffness and elasticity represents one of the possible strategies to generate plants that can survive higher salt concentrations.
In the next years, I aim at expanding my knowledge on other stresses to understand how they influence cell walls triggering the activation of the cell wall-dependent intracellular responses