Plant Stomata and Our Sustenance
Stomata, cellular valves on the plant epidermis, serve as critical interface between plant and atmosphere. Through stomatal pores, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere enters into the plant body and is fixed to carbohydrates, a process known as photosynthesis. Oxygen, the bi-product of photosynthesis, will be released from plants to the atmosphere via stomatal pores, which become the air we breathe. In the adverse environment, stomatal pores can be shut to minimize water loss. In addition to drought, stomata respond to numerous stimuli, such as light, heat, carbon dioxide, and pathogen attack, to open/close the pores. For a longer term, stomatal development can be influenced by these environmental stimuli. The presence of stomata are critical for plant growth and productivity, and the presence of stomata impacts global carbon and water cycles. Indeed, scientists estimates that ~300 billion tons of carbon dioxide are fixed via plants, and that the entire atmosphere is recycled twice per year through stomatal pores collectively.
Stomata are one of the key developmental innovations that enabled plants to conquer terrestrial environment some 400 million years ago. Our ongoing and planned research focuses on unraveling the dynamics and specificities of cell-cell signaling underpinning epidermal (stomatal) patterning, and elucidating how such interactions govern reprogramming of the cellular state from stem cell maintenance, proliferation to differentiation. To achieve our goals, we use cross-disciplinary approaches spanning wide variety of techniques~ from plant genetics, genomics/epigenomics, biochemistry and proteomics, structural biology, cell biology and live imaging, chemical biology, to mathematical modeling.