Lee Laboratory

Welcome to the Plasmodesmata Laboratory

We are interested in understanding how plant cells communicate with each other through plasmodesmal nano channels at the molecular, cellular, and organ levels.  Our long-term research goals are uncovering the molecular anatomy, regulatory mechanisms, and function of plasmodesmata in the biology of plants.  To achieve these goals, we take interdisciplinary approaches combining advanced molecular and cellular techniques with biochemical, genetic engineering, and computational tools.

We know that many cancers and developmental defects in human bodies are often associated with a malfunction in communication between otherwise normal cells.  Similarly, the health and fitness of plants are compromised when cell-to-cell communication goes wrong developmentally or exploited by opportunistic pathogens.

We have found that plasmodesmata play a vital role in plant immunity.  Upon recognition of a pathogenic microbial attack, plants immediately turn on innate immune responses including the signaling pathways dependent on the defense hormone salicylic acid.  We found a novel crosstalk pathway between plasmodesmal closure and the salicylic acid-dependent defense pathway and that this crosstalk is mediated by the novel plasmodesmal regulator plasmodesmata-located protein (PDLP) 5.  We have also discovered new mechanisms and signaling pathways regulating plasmodesmal permeability not only biotic but also abiotic stresses.

Currently, we are focused on understanding how plasmodesmata are regulated during new organ development; how plasmodesmal membrane proteins are targeted to plasmodesmata; and how the major players are activated to close plasmodesmata.