The individual cells of any multicellular organism must be able to choose to die during circumstances where cell death facilitates the development, health, or survival of the whole organism. It is equally important that cells can choose not to die when the organism needs them alive. Because neither too many, nor too few, nor the wrong cells must make the decision to die, programmed cell death (PCD) is a very complex and highly regulated process.
One way cells can regulate PCD is by utilizing signal transduction pathways to promote or suppress PCD, as needed, in response to different internal and external signals. In plants, the proteins that participate in plant PCD signaling have not been well characterized, and in general, it is unknown how the regulation of individual proteins affects the control and extent of cell death.
I study two plant protein kinases, PDK1 and Adi3, which are involved in PCD signaling. Adi3 negatively regulates cell death in tomato, and is activated by PDK1 phosphorylation. PDK1 phosphorylates several protein kinases that participate in distinct signaling pathways related to cell growth, survival, and death. Each of these pathways is at least partially dependent on PDK1 phosphorylation of its substrate.
In general, I am interested in studying how regulation of the PDK1-Adi3 mediated signaling pathway contributes to regulation of PCD in tomato. In other words, how does activation of this pathway function to suppress cell death? My projects in the lab involve:
- Identifying and characterizing sites of PDK1 phosphorylation on Adi3, as well as sites of Adi3 autophosphorylation
- Investigating how Adi3 is stabilized in a functional (kinase-active) conformation
- Discovering additional components of the PDK1-Adi3 pathway (specifically, proteins phosphorylated by Adi3) and characterizing the interaction of Adi3 with these substrates
- Investigating how upregulation and downregulation of Adi3 affect the extent to which PCD occurs
Anna was a Postdoctoral Researcher from 2012-2015 at the Univeristy of Arizona in the lab of Noah Whiteman. After the Whiteman lab she was a Postdoctoral Researcher from in 2016-2017 in the lab of Marc Beilstein at the University of Arizona. Currently (as of 07.25.2018) Anna works as a scientist for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.