Project Details


Programmed cell death (PCD) is found in all eukaryotes and plays critical roles in important processes such as tissue/organ morphogenesis, elimination of unwanted/damaged cells, pathogen defense, and stress responses. Metacaspases belong to a family of specialized cysteine proteases that are found to be highly conserved regulators of this important process in plants, fungi and protozoa but their mode of regulation and downstream targets remain obscure in most cases. This project will carry out genetic and molecular studies aimed at elucidating the mechanisms by which the activation and desensitization of metacaspases may be controlled. Furthermore, the investigators will deploy a novel technology to define the intracellular targets for three different metacaspases in order to uncover the potential pathways that are regulated by these proteases. In addition to the direct contributions toward our understanding of PCD regulation in higher plants, this project will shed light on the mechanisms of how the conserved metacaspases could be regulated. These advances can facilitate future design of novel strategies to activate cell death in pathogenic protozoa strains and fungi, as well as to suppress cell death in crop plants during stresses for improved productivity. Results generated from this project will be communicated to the public via peer-reviewed journals, and the resources produced, such as new mutant lines and DNA constructs, will be freely shared with other investigators upon request. From the pedagogical perspective, this project will provide diversified, interdisciplinary training to postdoctoral researchers and students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. It will expose team members to a diverse array of disciplines, including genetics, genomics, molecular cloning, biochemistry and cell biology. This broad-based training will provide a rich environment that is conducive to creative approaches for solving complex problems in biology and for leveraging innovative technologies for novel solutions.
Effective start/end date9/15/138/31/16


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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