One way to adapt to climate change is to understand how plants can thrive in the changing environment. José Dinneny looks at the mechanisms that control environmental responses in plants, including responses to salty soils and different moisture conditions—work that provides the foundation for developing crops for the changing climate.
The Dinneny lab focuses on understanding how developmental processes such as cell-type specification regulate responses to environmental change. Most studies have considered the organ or even the whole organism as a single responsive unit and ignore the potential diversity of responses by the various cell-types composing an organism. Dinneny has shown that developmental parameters play a key role in determining the response of cells to high salinity.
Dinneny and team used Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting to isolate specific cell-types from roots to generate a high-resolution gene expression map, which details the expression pattern of over 23,000 Arabidopsis genes in roots grown under both standard and high-salinity conditions. They showed that regulatory pathways primarily control events in multiple cell-types while cell-type specific responses, which constitute the bulk of the response, are controlled by unknown mechanisms. Identifying and characterizing these unknown mechanisms is at the heart of his current research, which will lead to a deep understanding of how a multicellular organ responds and potentially adapts to environmental change.
Other studies focus on moisture signaling, which may regulate nearly every aspect of root development. In a process his team dubbed “hydropatterning,” local contact of the root tip with a liquid or the air has the ability to cause stark differences in the tissue development. Hydropatterning is observed in Arabidopsis thaliana as well as other flowering plants. The goal is to establish a foundation for understanding hydropatterning by characterizing the changes in growth and development using developmental and cell-type specific approaches along with genetic and genomic tools to identify the key pathways through which moisture signaling acts to affect these processes.
Dinneny received his B.S. in plant science from the University of California—Berkley and his Ph. D. in plant developmental genetics from the University of California—San Diego. He was an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore and a principal investigator at Temasek Lifesciences Laboratory before coming to Carnegie in 2011. For more see https://dpb.carnegiescience.edu/labs/dinneny-lab