Plants and animals interact with their environment. Since plants are incapable to move around, they are sensitive to their surrounding environment and modify their development according to external signals. Plants face variability in growth conditions – temperature, light quality and quantity, herbivores, pathogens, water availability etc. Yet, plants respond to these biotic and abiotic factors and survive substantial fluctuations in its environment. Plants also must balance the range of potential threats and benefits confronting it and should make appropriate decisions on resource allocation. Such adaptability is essential for the sessile nature of the plants. The mechanisms that underlie this adaptability likely involve complex signaling to generate the appropriate response. In some adaptive responses, for example, when the plants have to cope with climate change and increased competition for light, there is a decrease in productivity (yield, biomass) as the plant relocates resources to better adapt. Understanding how plants deal with, and respond to a multitude of environmental signals could help to develop crops that cope with unfavorable growth conditions without significant changes in yield.
Our research goals seek to determine the mechanisms behind how a plant perceives and successfully adapts to its environment, primarily light. Plants lack a brain yet they can make decisions. We also aim to understand how a plant must integrate intrinsic and extrinsic cues and ‘decide’ how best to respond to environmental cues.
We use multiple biological systems - Arabidopsis, tomato, sorghum, and metazoan cells to answer our scientific questions. We use a variety of techniques not limited to molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, genomics and modeling.