Analysis of a SANT-domain protein controlling organ size uniformity in Arabidopsis sepal development
One of the major questions of developmental biology is how the plant cells decide when to stop growing and dividing to ensure a correctly sized organ. Although many genes that regulate cell division, growth, and plant hormones have been found to influence organ size (Power and Lenhard, 2012), the mechanism that senses size and tells the organ to stop growing remains unknown. Arabidopsis thaliana is a useful model because its flower size is mostly invariant to environmental conditions, which allows an analysis of genetic controls behind organ size without environmental variability. To understand how A. thaliana controls organ size, we identified a mutant with variable sepal size. Size of both wild type and mutant sepals were compared using statistical analysis to characterize the phenotype. We also fused the SANT domain protein with the glucocorticoid receptor to create an inducible system, which will be used for RNA-sequencing to identify downstream genes targeted by the SANT-domain protein. By investigating the role of this gene, we can gain a better understanding of the sensing and controlling organ size uniformity.
My PGRP internship experience gave me the opportunity to explore genetic and molecular approaches to solving questions in developmental biology, which is very different from my organismal background. Although initially I found myself on a steep learning curve, I have gained a deeper understanding about mechanisms behind plant development and how the use of a model system can further scientific knowledge on organ size sensing. I also learned the importance of imaging and modeling to understand how plants grow in time and space. After interacting with my PI, mentor, and other scientists in the lab, I have learned that science is not only a truly collaborative effort but also one that fosters problem solving and creativity. I am grateful to the program for providing me the resources to learn more about graduate school programs, current and relevant scientific issues being explored, and the field of bioinformatics.