About My Research
The overarching question in my research program is: How do plants use calcium signals to process information about their environment?
The Role of Calcium in Signal Transduction
As sessile organisms that cannot flee adverse growth conditions, plants have evolved a complex array of adaptive responses to environmental perturbations such as drought, temperature stress, salinity, and pathogen attack. Generally, when a stimulus is perceived, signal transduction pathways activate and coordinate appropriate cellular responses that typically include changes in gene/protein expression and activity and lead to adjustments in metabolism and development. Although the specific cellular and physiological changes induced by stress vary according to the nature of the stimulus, one universal aspect is the use of calcium ions as important second messengers. One of the earliest cellular responses to stimuli involves the opening of calcium channels and the subsequent influx of calcium into the cytosol. Increases in [calcium]cyt above a threshold level activate a variety of calcium sensors (calcium-binding proteins) which, in turn, regulate the activity of myriad downstream targets such as kinases, transcription factors, metabolic enzymes, cytoskeletal components, etc. that ultimately orchestrate the cellular response required to adapt to a given stimulus.