MSU to use $900,000 NSF grant to unveil plants’ gates and signaling secrets

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MSU researcher Brad Day (view larger image)

Michigan State University (MSU) has landed a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant to learn more about how plants’ molecular gates close and alert defenses for battling diseases.

The MSU team will study plants’ stomata, which are specialized pores on the surface of plants’ leaves. They play a key role in many functions, including the exchange of gasses, restricting water loss and, in terms of diseases, serving as gatekeepers to stop pathogens.

Many of these responses share a number of common features, including the stomata. Much in the same way that hormones regulate human cellular processes, plant hormones control plant response to changes in the environment. By studying these links, MSU researchers are hoping to gain insights on the specific mechanisms critical in controlling these functions.

“We want to find out how plants battle bacterial pathogens at the molecular level,” said Brad Day, associate professor of plant, soil and microbial science and the grant’s co-lead investigator. “We’ll use plant stomata as a marker to understand how chemical changes in a cell are perceived and ultimately transduced to regulate physical and mechanical changes in cellular movement, architecture and shape.”

For the full story, please visit MSU Today.

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