Dr. Marc Libault
Dr. Marc Libault

Marc Libault

Epigenetics, Plant Molecular Biology, Plant Functional Genomics


Welcome to the Plant Root Hair Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma. The interests of the laboratory have a common theme: understand and improve the adaptation of plants to various environmental stresses. We are especially interested in the response of a single root cell type, the root hair cell, to biotic and abiotic stresses (Figure 1).



Cell wall enriched plant protoplasts
Figure 1. Root hair cells are epidermal cells with tubular emergences. Their distinctive lateral elongation increases the surface of exchange between the plantís root system and the rhizosphere. The main function of root hairs is to improve water and nutrient uptake.

The root hair experimental system is equally applicable to questions related to cell development, water and nutrient uptake, resistance to heavy metal stresses and plant cell response to microbe infection since, in soybean, root hair cells are the first site of infection by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The improvement of root hair cell functionality will have a direct impact on efforts to sustainably enhance crop production and to maintain crop yield despite predicted climate changes, the decrease of the quality of cultivated soils and the predicted decrease of phosphate rock reserves used as plant fertilizer. Hence, our ultimate goal is to utilize this system to understand the role of various genetic and epigenetic regulatory circuits (i.e., transcriptome, transcription factor protein-protein interactions and protein-DNA interactions, DNA methylome, histone acetylome and methylome, small RNA population) in modulating the development and physiology of this single plant cell type.
 
Figure 2. Research approach summary
Figure 2. Integration of distinct molecular approaches to establish the root hair cell as a biological model system

 



In the laboratory, we are using soybean root hair as a model. The recent release of its genome sequence and transcriptome atlases as well as the isolation of gram quantities of root hair cells makes soybean an attractive model to investigate root hair cell biology. Among others, we are using a combination of high-throughput sequencing technologies to establish the transcriptome and epigenome of root hair cells during their adaptation to stresses and functional genomic studies to characterize the biological function of key-genes (Figure 2). We are specifically interested in the role of regulatory genes such as transcription factor genes.
 


Selected Publications:

For more information about this program, contact the Department or Dr. Marc Libault.


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