What Happens in Cells and Cell Walls During Plant Growth?
17 March 2015
Plant biologist Dr. Thomas Greb of Heidelberg University is receiving an ERC Consolidator Grant, a highly endowed grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for extraordinary research talent. The grant will fund a five-year project to investigate the processes in cells and cell walls as plants grow. Dr. Greb, who teaches and conducts research at the Centre for Organismal Studies Heidelberg, will have around two million euros at his disposal to conduct the project “PLANTSTEMS: Decoding the Lateral Expansion of Plant Stems”.
Unlike human beings and most animals, plants grow throughout their entire lifetime, enabling them to develop into some of the largest bodies on earth. Greb’s research explores how the plant coordinates this continuous growth and how a plant body grows while remaining functional and stable. “Cell walls are a decisive factor for this in plants. Every plant cell is surrounded by a cell wall, which is not only vital for the cell’s growth but also determines the solidity of the plant body,” explains the researcher.
In the project being funded by the ERC Consolidator Grant, Thomas Greb’s team will concentrate on the secondary growth of the plant stem as an example of the coordination of growth and stability. “We are studying how cells and cell walls communicate with each other during secondary growth to coordinate their functions and changes. We suspect that the cell walls forward information on their mechanical status to the cells and that they in turn adapt both themselves and the properties of the cell walls accordingly,” states Dr. Greb. As the secondary growth of plant stems is also critical for the development of wood and biomass in general, the scientists also hope to contribute to our understanding of a process that is fundamentally important to both humankind and nature.
Thomas Greb (b. 1972) studied biology at the University of Cologne and received his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne in 2003. He then pursued research at the John Innes Centre for Molecular Plant Research and Microbiology in Norwich, England, prior to joining the Gregor Mendel Institute for Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna as a junior research group head in 2006. He completed his habilitation in 2012 at the University of Vienna. Since the beginning of 2015, Thomas Greb has been a Heisenberg Fellow and head of the “Growth and Cell Fate Regulation” research group at the Centre for Organismal Studies. In addition to the Heisenberg Fellowship of the German Research Foundation and the ERC Consolidator Grant, Dr. Greb’s work has earned him numerous other awards and grants.
The ERC Consolidator Grant is given to excellent young researchers whose own recently established independent working group is in the consolidation phase. Scientific excellence is the main criterion for receipt of the grant.