Monday, November 12, 2018

Congratulations Miranda!

We are very happy to congratulate Miranda Meents on successfully defending her PhD on November 8, 2018. Miranda defended her unique thesis encompassing both her work on xylan synthesis and the arrangement of the plant Golgi and her work on teaching techniques for undergraduate biology students to a packed house.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New review paper: The Transport of Monomers during Lignification in Plants: Anything Goes but How?

We are pleased to announce the publication of our review of monolignol transport in Current Opinion in Biotechnology. Mendel PerkinsLacey Samuels and alumnus Rebecca Smith authored this brief review of the latest work in the area of lignin monomer transport.

In this schematic lignin monomers may be leaving cells where they are synthesized by several
possible routes. Active transport, diffusion directly through the membrane or facilitated by a
channel, and conversion to glucoside intermediates may all play a role in monomer transport to
the wall where they are ultimately polymerized. 

For a limited time (Until December 9, 2018) you can freely access the article through this link. Following that date the paper can be accessed normally here. This article is part of a special issue covering various aspects of lignin from a biotechnological perspective.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jan Xue

I grew up in California in an area nestled between tall dry grass hills and barnacle-covered rocks that line the coast. Plant life grew where it seemed like it shouldn’t - algae where the waves crashed and flowers in a parched, sunbaked landscape. It’s apparent that algae and plants are sessile and therefore don’t have legs to run away from incoming waves. As this is the case, how are plants able to survive, for example, in these hydro-dynamically wave-swept areas? The diversity, beauty, and adaptations of both macro and microscopic plant-life are awe-inspiring and a major reason why I’ve become so interested in plant research.

During my undergraduate degree, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work on several different research projects. I’ve looked at the effect of drought on flowering time (in the Des Marais Lab), used synthetic biology techniques to produce proteins that were sensors for various other molecules (in the DeBuck Lab), looked at how predation affects the evolution of stickleback brains (in the Schluter Lab), and visualized cellulose producing enzymes using microscopy (in the Samuels Lab). In my grab-bag of experiences, I had the privilege of working with many amazing and inspiring graduate students and supervisors of whom I can aspire towards in these next couple of years. I have started as a Master’s student co-supervised by Lacey Samuels and Patrick Martone in September 2018.

Cellulose is a major structural component in the cell walls of both land plants and algae imparting architectural and biomechanical flexibility. The cellulose in primary (PCW) and secondary plant cell walls (SCW) is produced by cellulose synthases (CESA). Though typically there is no distinction between PCWs and SCWs in algae, SCWs have been identified in the red algae Calliarthron. This presents an exciting opportunity to explore the characteristics of this algae’s CESA.

As there are no protocols to introduce genetic material into algae, my thesis will exploit biotechnological resources in Arabidopsis to study these algae CESAs. As the role of these algal SCW CESAs is unknown, this study will explore how these algal CESA provide the structural strength and flexibility required in these aquatic environments.


Samuk, K., Xue, J., and Rennision, D.J. (2018). Exposure to predators does not lead to the evolution of larger brains in experimental populations of threespine stickleback. Evolution 72(4):916-929. [view abstract]