Plant viruses and plasmodesmata

All plant cells are separated by cell walls, which provide mechanical stability, but also constitute a barrier for communication and molecular exchange between cells. This separation is overcome by plasmodesmata, the plant cell junctions, which allow the transport of nutrients and signals such as hormones, small RNAs and proteins between neighbouring cells.

Plasmodesmata are of such fundamental importance to plant nutrient transport, development and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses that mutations causing strong disruptions of plasmodesmata are embryo-lethal.

Likely due to their centrality to plant defence responses, nearly all types of plant pathogens are now known to manipulate plasmodesmata. Additionally, plant viruses use plasmodesmata as the transport pathway from infected into naïve cells.

Our research focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which plant viruses move their infectious RNA genomes through plasmodesmata, as well as on the structural and functional components of the channels and how they regulate plant cell communication.

We use a wide variety of experimental approaches, from molecular biology and biochemistry to advanced light and electron microscopy including super-resolution imaging and live cell RNA imaging.