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The Golgi apparatus lies in the centre of the secretory pathway, a complex membrane system conserved in all eukaryotic cells. It is similar to a compartmentalised conveyor belt system in a factory: it processes, distributes and stores a wide range of important proteins such as storage proteins in cereal grains or proteins involved in plant stress responses. In animal cells the Golgi apparatus is organised as a single large ribbon. A plant cell however can have up to hundreds of small mobile Golgi bodies which move along the cytoskeleton over the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Golgi bodies contain enzymes that attach sugars to proteins, they pack and ship protein cargo and lipids and produce material for the cell wall.
Tethering factors take over a range of important functions at the Golgi apparatus and the ER-Golgi interface, such as the regulation of protein transport or the formation and maintenance of the polarised Golgi stack. I am interested in characterising plant tethering factors at the cis-Golgi (in collaboration with Prof Chris Hawes) and at the trans-Golgi face and trans-Golgi network. In collaboration with Dr Imogen Sparkes, Prof Stan Botchway, Dr Mark Pollard and Dr Andy Ward I am using and developing advanced laser-based bioimaging methods such as fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) to test protein-protein interactions and optical laser tweezers to micromanipulate Golgi bodies in living plant cells.
A collaboration with Dr Irene Mueller-Harvey (University of Reading) explored the use of bioimaging methods to study the subcellular localisation of plant secondary metabolites and enzymes required for their synthesis.