Plant Direct Q&A with Elizabeth Haswell

What does your lab work on?

My group studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which plants sense and response to mechanical stimuli. In particular, we focus on a class of molecular mechanoreceptors called mechanosensitive ion channels.

Tell us about the key findings from your recent article in Plant Direct.

This project was meant to be a straightforward study of genetic and protein-protein interactions between three mechanosensitive ion channels from Arabidopsis thaliana, two that localize to the chloroplast and one that localizes to the mitochondria. Things turned out to be a bit more complicated than we thought, and it turns out that loss of the mitochondrial channel exacerbates some phenotypes associated with loss of the chloroplast channels; but ameliorates others.

Why did you choose to publish in Plant Direct?

For the most part, this paper comprises the senior thesis of Wash U undergraduate Josephine Lee. She worked in the lab for a few semesters for credit, and in the summer of 2015 was awarded an ASPB SURF to continue the project. The following semester she wrote everything up for her senior thesis. When I saw it, I realized that she’d collected some interesting results, and done so exceptionally carefully. We only had to make a few small changes to prepare her figures for publication! Josephine was really invested in published her work, both to share it with the field and to have a publication on her CV when she applies to graduate school. However, the complicated nature of her results would have made it difficult to publish in many journals without a lot of additional study. We chose Plant Direct for its focus on sound science rather than novelty or perceived impact.

Publication Spotlight: Lee, J. S., Wilson, M. E., Richardson, R. A., & Haswell, E. S. (2019). Genetic and physical interactions between the organellar mechanosensitive ion channel homologs MSL 1, MSL 2, and MSL 3 reveal a role for inter‐organellar communication in plant development. Plant Direct3(3), e00124.

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