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Washington State University

Andrei P. Smertenko

Assistant Professor

Ph.D. 1996, National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine


Research Interests

Our lab studies the role of cellular architecture in the regulation of life and death processes in plants. Plant development depends on the accurate balance between cell proliferation and differentiation. Cell proliferation cooperates with cell expansion in defining the size and shape of the plant. New cells generated in the meristems undergo differentiation to form specific cell types and tissues. In some cases, differentiation is terminal and leads to programmed cell death. Programmed cell death is indispensable for all stages of plant development (e.g. elimination of embryo suspensor during embryogenesis, for wood formation, seed development) and for stress responses. While proliferation determines the overall yield of plant biomass, terminal differentiation defines its quality. From this point of view, both processes are important paradigms for biotechnology.

The balance between proliferation and terminal differentiation is maintained by complex signalling networks under control of developmental and environmental cues. Performance of the signalling networks is modulated by cellular architecture, a combination of parameters that include cell shape, cell wall structure, distribution of organelles and various protein, and nucleic acid structures. Cellular architecture is defined by the cytoskeleton, an inter-connected network of microtubules and microfilaments, and numerous proteins which link cytoskeleton with other cellular components. While microtubules and microfilaments control distribution and trafficking of cellular components, the latter in turn, alter properties of the cytoskeleton. This mechanism provides a feedback loop that allows cross-talk between morphology of individual cells and signalling for plant development. Apart from being the master-commander of plant morphogenesis, cellular architecture is essential for the regulation of metabolic processes and stress responses.

We combine diverse techniques including advanced live-cell imaging, genetics, biochemistry, modelling and cell biology to address fundamental questions of plant biology.

Current research projects in the lab focus on:

1. Structural proteins of microtubules and actin filaments.
2. Regulation of cytoskeletal organization and dynamics.
3. Mechanisms of cell division.
4. Terminal differentiation and programmed cell death.
5. Alteration of cytoplasm architecture in response to stress.



mitosis in Norway spruce
Mitosis in Norway spruce

Andrei P. Smertenko
Andrei P. Smertenko