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Understanding cell wall remodeling processes of grass root system formation and function for sustainable biofuel production

EMSL Project ID


Root ideotypes that improve water and nutrient uptake been a major target for improvement of climate resilience in bioenergy grasses. Here we propose to use EMSL’s state of the art capabilities to unearth the molecular cues that underly cell wall remodeling during root hair emergence and lateral root initiation—two features that are key to root system architecture as well as interactions with the rhizosphere. To this end we will take a comparative approach using Brachypodium distachyon and rice to determine the genes and gene products that are crucial for tip growth of root hairs and cell wall remodeling during lateral root emergence. We will take advantage of mutant resources in B. distachyon and rice to identify both unique and conserved processes in root hair growth and lateral root emergence on an ultrastructural, cellular and root system-wide scale. Specifically, we propose to use LCM coupled with RNAseq and nanoPOTS to identify gene candidates and conserved processes in root epidermal differentiation and later root emergence. We will also use MSI to determine the spatial distribution of ions in the root epidermis and lateral root initials. Finally, we propose a pilot study to use TEM to analyze cell wall ultrastructure and xCT to track the impact of high and low nitrate content on overall root architecture in B. distachyon and rice. These data will be integrated into a model and used for selection of candidate molecules, genes, and phenes for downstream functional analysis in switchgrass as a long-term goal and outcome. This project addresses both ETI and FSB research areas by focusing on cell signaling and systems biology studies of bioenergy grasses and integrating molecular phenotypes with root phenotypes. Root traits are key to improving bioenergy crop sustainability increasing feedstock production in marginal environments. For example, increasing the understanding of lignin auto degradation by plants has the potential to improve the efficiency of biomass conversion to fuel and directly contribute to US energy security.

Project Details

Project type
Exploratory Research
Start Date
End Date


Principal Investigator

Karen Sanguinet
Washington State University


Laura Bartley
Washington State University

Team Members

Janel Poisson
Washington State University

Miguel Angel Rosas
Washington State University

Xianran Li
United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service