Did you know that every second, plants produce 3,000 tons of cellulose, a key component of their cell walls? These walls play a crucial role in plant growth, adaptation to environmental conditions, and ultimately, in sustaining life on our planet. Furthermore, cell walls are essential for food production, clothing (cotton), wood, and even bioenergy. And they are renewable, climate-friendly, and naturally produced, making them crucial in the fight against climate change. In my research group, we want to know more about this fascinating plant structure, especially about the dynamic processes that allow it to adapt to changing conditions.
The cell wall is a complex network of carbohydrates and proteins that plays a crucial role in plant growth and adaptation to environmental conditions. The maintenance of cell wall integrity is essential for regulating the functional integrity of cell walls during development and stress. Plant cell wall integrity monitoring systems constantly survey the status of cell walls and initiate a series of responses when they are altered. Interestingly, plant cell wall integrity seems to be related to adaptation to challenging environments, since some cell wall mutants are more resistant to certain stresses.
Understanding the mechanisms behind cell wall integrity monitoring and response is a key area of research in our lab. Time and dynamics are the keywords that define our research group’s approach to cell walls. We are interested in understanding how cell wall integrity is regulated over time and how it responds to changes in the environment. By studying these dynamic processes, we aim to uncover the mechanisms that govern plant growth and development and pave the way for innovative solutions that benefit agriculture and the environment. Specifically, we explore the following research interests:
- Understanding the relationship between cell wall composition and mechanical characteristics: We investigate how the composition of cell walls changes during plant development and interaction with the environment and how these changes affect their mechanical characteristics.
- Defining the meaning of cell wall integrity: We explore the homeostasis of plant cell walls in the context of plant growth, adaptation, and response to environmental stresses.
- Understanding how environmental stresses impact cell wall homeostasis: We study how environmental stresses, such as drought and pathogen attacks, affect cell wall homeostasis.
- Investigating how the plant integrates cell wall information into developmental processes: We explore how the plant integrates information about cell wall composition and mechanical properties into its developmental processes, such as cell cycle progression.
Our lab employs a range of cutting-edge technologies to achieve our research goals. These include:
- Brillouin and confocal microscopies: We use these imaging techniques to visualize changes in cell wall composition and mechanical properties.
- Biochemical analysis: We use various biochemical analysis techniques, including GC/LC-MS and FTIR, to investigate the chemical composition of cell walls.
- Molecular biology: We use various molecular biology techniques such as cloning, qRT-PCR, and RNAseq to investigate gene expression patterns related to cell wall integrity.
- Cell wall fractionation and glycome profiling: We use these techniques to analyze the polysaccharides and proteins present in plant cell walls.
- Study of signaling cascades: We explore the various signaling pathways involved in cell wall integrity monitoring and responses, especially hormone pathways (jasmonic, salicylic and abscisic acid) and pattern-triggered immunity-related responses (Ca2+ input, MAPK phosphorylation, ectopic lignin deposition, etc.).
- Analysis of traits of agronomical interest: These include resistance to biotic (pathogens) and abiotic (drought, temperature, etc.) stresses, saccharification, biomass production, etc.
- Computational modelling: We use different models (logical, finite-elements, etc.) to integrate our different data into models that enable us to analyse and predict cell wall behaviour.
Our lab is committed to using multidisciplinary approaches and novel methodologies to solve complex problems in plant research. Our research has far-reaching implications, including improving crop yields, creating new bio-based materials, and developing sustainable energy sources.
Bacete, L., Schulz, J., Engelsdorf, T., Bartosova, Z., Tichá, T., Vaahtera, L., Yan, G., Gerhold, J., Øvstebø, C., Gigli-Bisceglia, N., Margueritat, J., Kollist, H., Dehoux, T., McAdam, S.A.M., Hamann., T. (2022) THESEUS1 modulates mechanical characteristics of cell walls and abscisic acid production in Arabidopsis thaliana. PNAS, 119 (1) e2119258119. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2119258119.
- One of the first applications of Brillouin Microspectroscopy in plants. We used this novel technique to study changes in biophysical characteristics of A. thaliana cell walls in response to cell wall damage and hyperosmotic pressure conditions.
- To complement the Brillouin data, we studied downstream signaling processes mediated by phytohormones quantified using LC-MS/MS.
- By integrating these results, we have developed a model explaining how a plant cell could generate specific responses to either cell expansion and shrinkage, based on interactions between the plant cell wall and plasma membrane.
Molina, A., Miedes, E., Bacete, L., Rodríguez, T., Mélida, H., Denancé, N., Sánchez-Vallet, A., Rivieré, M.P., López, G., Freydier, A., Bartel, X., Pattathil, S., Hahn, M. and Goffner, D. (2021) Arabidopsis cell wall composition determines disease resistance specificity and fitness. PNAS 118(5). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010243118
- Interdisciplinary work using mathematical modelling and biochemical analysis to link Arabidopsis thaliana mutants with alterations in cell wall composition to improvement in resistance to biotic / abiotic stress.
Bacete, L., Miedes, E., Mélida, H., López, G., Denancé, N., Marco, Y. and Molina, A. (2020) ARABIDOPSIS RESPONSE REGULATOR 6 (ARR6) affects cell wall composition and mediates resistance to Plectosphaerella cucumerina and Ralstonia solanacearum. MPMI 33(5). DOI: 10.1094/MPMI-12-19-0341-R.
- ARR6 was believed to act exclusively as a mediator of the plant’s hormonal responses. However, in this work we demonstrated ARR6 is also involved in the control of cell-wall composition and disease resistance, which stated the role of the plant cell wall in the modulation of specific immune responses.
- Selected as Editor’s Pick for September 2020 issue of MPMI Journal.
- Top cited paper in MPMI Journal during 2020.
Mélida, H., Bacete, L., Ruprecht, C., Rebaque, D., Del Hierro, I., López, G., Bunner, F., Pfrengle, F. and Molina, A. (2020). Arabinoxylan-oligosaccharides act as Damage Associated Molecular Patterns in plants regulating disease resistance. Front. Plant. Sci. 11, 1210. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.01210.
- Continuation of the research done during my PhD.
- Using cell wall fractions extracted from the arr6 mutant, we were able to identify an arabinoxylan pentasaccharide with strong immunomodulatory activity.
- In this work, we propose 33-α-l-arabinofuranosyl-xylotetraose (XA3XX) as a hemicellulose-derived DAMP triggering strong immune responses in Arabidopsis thaliana and enhancing crop disease resistance.
Bacete, L., Mélida, H., Miedes, E. and Molina, A. (2018) Plant cell wall-mediated immunity: cell wall changes trigger disease resistance responses. Plant J., 93, 614. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13807
- State-of-science review about the prominent role of plant cell wall in defense to pathogens.
- Ranked in the top 20 most downloaded articles in The Plant Journal during 2018.
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CV L. Bacete
2014 – 2018: PhD in Plant and Associated Microorganisms Biotechnology and Genetic Resources. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain (UPM). Supervisors: Prof. Antonio Molina. Co-supervisor: Prof. Eva Miedes.
2023 – to date: Assistant Professor. Deparment of Plant Physiology. Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.
2023 – to date: Project Group Leader. Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet (NTNU) – Trondheim, Norway
2019 – 2022: Postdoctoral fellow. NTNU – Trondheim, Norway. Advisor: Prof. Thorsten Hamann.
2019: R&D Project manager. Genomics4All S.L – Madrid, Spain.
2018: Postdoctoral fellow. Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid – Madrid, Spain. Advisors: Prof. Antonio Molina and Prof. Eva Miedes.
2012 – 2013: Undergraduate research assistant. Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics. UPM – Madrid, Spain. Advisors: Prof. Antonio Molina and Prof. Eva Miedes.
2022-05-02 – 2022-05-22: Institute Lumière Matière (ILM). Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1, Lyon, France. Advisor: Prof. Thomas Dehoux.
2019-11-18 – 2020-02-14: Institute Lumière Matière (ILM). Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1, Lyon, France. Advisor: Prof. Thomas Dehoux.
2016-04-04 – 2016-07-04: Institute Jean-Pierre Bourgin (IJPB). Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Versailles, France. Advisor: Prof. Herman Höfte
2023 – 2025: Research Project for Young Talents (#334633). Title: Coordination between cell wall integrity and cell cycle activity in plants. Norges Forskningsråd (The Research Council of Norway).
2019 – 2022: Postdoc fellowship from the Faculty of Natural Sciences (#70443343). NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.
2019: Short-Term Scientific Mission Travel Grant. COST action CA16124 (BioBrillouin).
2016: International short stays in R&D centres travel grant (EEBB-I-16-10710). Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.
2014 – 2018: Predoctoral training grant (BES-2013-065010). Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Value (app.): €100,000.
European patent EP20382671: “Methods and compositions to improve plant health and protection”. Inventors: Mélida, H., Rebaque, D., Jordá, L., Del Hierro, I., Bacete, L., López, G., Pérez, R.M., Brunner, F. and Molina, A.
Coinventor on the following patent applications: Canadian Patent Application No. 1454.40.CA; Brazilian Patent Application No. BR 112023001558-8; US Patent Application USSN 18/006,881, Japan Patent Application No. 2023-506238.
Prizes and awards
2021: Most cited research article in Molecular Plant – Microbe Interactions during 2020. This article was also chosen as the Editor’s pick in September 2020.
2020: Extraordinary PhD Award. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
2016: Best Business Idea (Genomics4All S.L). Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
2016: Best Scientific Poster. XIV Cell Wall Meeting. Chania (Greece).
Leadership courses and supervision
2022: PhD supervisor course. NTNU. 15 hours.
2021: Research Leadership Course. NTNU. 15 hours.
2021 – 2022: Supervision of four Postdoctoral fellows in Prof. Hamann’s research group.
2020 – 2022: Course coordinator (BI2015, Molecular Biology). NTNU.
2017 – 2022: Supervision of two Master students (UPM, NTNU).
Commissions of trust
2023: Lead guest editor of special focus issue of Plant Molecular Biology “Dynamics and mechanics of plant cell wall” (in preparation).
2023: Scientific Committee member and co-chair, XVI Cell Wall Meeting. Málaga (Spain)
2022: Member of the committee for the construction of a Brillouin add-on in a confocal microscope at the Microscopy service of NTNU
2022: Member of the committee for PhD Thesis (Universidad de León, Spain).
2022: Organiser of a session at 32nd International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR). Belfast (Northern Ireland)
2021: External reviewer for PhD Thesis (Universidad de Málaga, Spain).
Reviewer for: Annals of Botany, BMC Biology, Cells, IJMS, Molecular Biology Reports, Plant Physiology, PLOS ONE, The Plant Journal.
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