Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, August 2016

Recently, we’ve been profiling first authors of Plant Cell papers that are selected for In Brief summaries. Here are the first-author profiles from the August issue of The Plant Cell.

Aman Y. Husbands and Vasudha Aggarwal, featured first authors of In Planta Single-Molecule Pull-down (SiMPull) Reveals Tetrameric Stoichiometry of HD-ZIPIII:LITTLE ZIPPER Complexes.

Aman Y. Husbands00289Husbands

Current Position: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Plant Sciences, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Education: PhD (2007) in Plant Molecular Biology from the University of California – Riverside. B.Sc. (2001) in Biology at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Non-scientific Interests: Reading, music, exercise, and a strange fascination with US politics.

Born in Canada, I moved to Lusaka, Zambia when I was five years old, after my parents accepted faculty positions at the University of Zambia. This formative experience was responsible for my interest in biology, and as we had no TV, my love of good books. I pursued my PhD in the lab of Dr. Patricia Springer at UC Riverside, where I became interested in how developmental processes are regulated at the molecular level, and studied the biochemical properties of a new transcription factor family involved in organogenesis. After obtaining my PhD, I joined Dr. Marja Timmerman’s lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (now at the University of Tübingen) where we look at the complex, evolutionarily-conserved network of transcription factors and small RNAs that underlies flat leaf architecture. After seeing his graduate student’s talk at CSHL, Marja had the fantastic idea to reach out to Taekjip Ha and initiate the collaboration that led to this first single-molecule pull down (SiMPull) in plants. I am also fortunate to have an amazing co-first-author and collaborator Vasudha Aggarwal, and I anticipate this sensitive and quantitative technique will produce many exciting results for the plant community.

Vasuhda Aggarwal00289Aggarwal

Current Position: PhD Student in the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Education: MSc (2011) in Biology at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India. BSc (2008) in Physics at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, Delhi, India.

Non-scientific Interests: Reading, watching travel shows, swimming, and travelling.

I came to US from India for a PhD in the laboratory of Prof. Taekjip Ha and have been focusing on the mechanisms of protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions using single-molecule fluorescence microscopy. However, the choice of systems for my research had been limited to mammalian cells, until I got the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Aman Husbands and Dr. Marja Timmermans on this study. In this project, we pulled-down protein complexes from leaf tissue extracts, in a rapid and quantitative manner, for single-molecule imaging using the SiMPull technique. We could visualize single complexes of HD-ZIPIII:LITTLE ZIPPER, which are involved in leaf development, and due to the ability to quantitate the stoichiometry of every single complex, we found that the complexes assembled as tetramers. I am very excited for the future mechanistic studies of plant protein complexes using this technique and learning a lot of plant biology along the way.

Matthias Thalmann, featured first author of Regulation of leaf starch degradation by abscisic acid is important for osmotic stress tolerance in plants00143Thalmann

Current Position: Graduate student in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of Zürich.

Education: M.Sc (2013) in Plant Biology and B.Sc (2011) in Biology at ETH Zürich.

Non-scientific Interests: Swimming, hiking, and gardening.

When I started my studies at the ETH Zürich, I took several practical courses in the lab of Sam Zeeman who studies diurnal starch metabolism. As a master’s student, I continued working in his group and learned not only the details of starch metabolism, but also a variety of biochemical and molecular techniques to trace metabolites and fluxes in plants. During the theoretical part of my studies, I became fascinated with variety of defense mechanisms in plants – that cannot run from adverse conditions like animals – developed to cope with abiotic stress. Therefore, it was a most fortunate coincidence that Dr. Diana Santelia was starting her own group to investigate the interplay of starch metabolism and abiotic stress tolerance and was looking for PhD students as I finished my master’s degree. The aim of my PhD is to elucidate how water stress affects carbohydrate metabolism, as described in this paper. During this project, we found that far from being just an inert storage form for the night, starch also plays a crucial role in resistance to abiotic stresses. I look forward to uncovering novel strategies employed by plants to survive in the environment.