To be able to suTo be able to survive constantly changing and often harmful environmental conditions, plants must continuously adapt. Therefore, plants have complex mechanisms that sense and transduce environmental stimuli into adaptive responses. Organelles within the cell are thought to be important sensors and due to their tight integration into whole-cell metabolic and signalling networks, they are in a prime position to communicate stress signals and trigger adaptive responses. However, the mechanisms on how organelles convey stress signals remain poorly understood, especially in plants: “Which is the nature of the signals, how are they propagated and how are they perceived by other organelles?”
I have revealed a novel mechanism how mitochondria, chloroplasts, and the endoplasmic reticulum communicate stress signals to coordinate stress signal transduction into adaptive responses in the nucleus. My recent data provide novel leads that this coordination is mediated by organellar re-positioning and close association with each other. Therefore, I hypothesize that these organelles can associate directly through contact sites to enable fast and efficient communication of stress signals. Although inter-organellar contact sites have been studied in animal and yeast systems, mainly in the context of lipid transfer and calcium exchange, nearly nothing is known on their existence and mode of action in plants.
Understanding the mechanisms and functions of inter-organellar contact sites induced by stress is key in plant stress signalling research. To tackle this question, the COSI project will first identify stress-induced inter-organellar contact sites (SOCS) by means of high-end live-cell imaging and proteomics approaches, followed by their functional characterisation in plant stress responses.
The outcome of COSI is will be a better understanding, and potentially re-evaluation, of the fundamental mechanisms by which plants respond and adapt to stresses.
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