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Dr Imogen Sparkes

Organelle dynamics in plant cells

Organelle movement is a seemingly chaotic event in the vast majority of cell types which can be imaged in plants (such as epidermal and spongy mesophyll cells). Movement appears more ordered in cells under going polarised tip growth (pollen tubes and root hairs). The speed of movement is correlated with cell size and therefore plant growth. Movement parameters also alter in response to external stimuli such as light, pathogens and heavy metals.

We are using a combination of live cell imaging, molecular cell biology and modelling to understand the molecular and biophysical principles governing the global phenomenon of organelle movement. Using optical tweezers we have uncovered, and been able to quantify, physical interactions between organelle pairs in vivo.

Our overall aim is to understand the positional information relayed by organelle movement and interaction, which ultimately results in changes in cell size. By dissecting out the molecular components which control these processes, we can then use them as tools to probe the functional response of changing organelle movement and interaction parameters.