Due to the presence of a cell wall, plant cells are fixed within their tissue context and cannot move relative to each other during development. Plants thus need to rely on directed cell elongation and cell division to generate a full three-dimensional (3D) structure. Intrinsic polarity cues and cellular communication provide spatial information to plant cells and establishes their position relative to the tissue context and the axis of growth. This framework allows cells to integrate available information and orient their divisions in such a way that structured growth becomes possible. Controlling cell division potential and its orientations relative to the tissue axis is therefore the fundamental basis for 3D growth. Hence, understanding the mechanisms that control cell division orientation and cell proliferation are key questions in developmental biology, but remain poorly understood. These concepts are particularly important during vascular development, as many highly controlled oriented divisions are required to establish the distinct vascular cell identities during primary growth. Next, proliferation is crucial to allow the massive expansion in the number of cell files during secondary growth, resulting in lateral expansion. The main research objective of my team is thus to understand how plant cells control the proliferation and orientation of their cell divisions. These processes are crucial for 3D growth in general and vascular development in specific. Understanding vascular proliferation is of great interest as vascular tissues have the specific ability to undergo a tremendous amount of these divisions and the additional cell files created this way generate almost all of the tissues that make up wood in trees, are crucial for source-to-sink transport throughout the plant and make up many edible structures such as fruits, roots and tubers. Moreover, vascular architecture has been linked to the efficiency of water uptake and water storage in dry conditions. As such, research in my team lays the ground work to understand and exploit how vascular proliferation and architecture can ensure optimal plant growth in a changing environment.


Current and future research in my team is focused around three interconnected topics, all aimed at answering the main research aim detailed above: (1) unravelling the transcriptional networks leading to vascular cell proliferation, (2) cell biological insights into the cell division orientation process and (3) studying the acquisition of vascular tissue identity in an evolutionary context.