Understanding root hair development
Root hair cells offer an outstanding opportunity to study the entire development of a plant cell in the context of a developing organ. Throughout their lives, from cell divisions in the transparent root meristem, to the production and function of mature root hairs, hair cells and their contents are visible, and for most of this time, readily accessible at the root surface. Arabidopsis root hair genetics is very well established, and together with the results of transcriptomics, data mining, reverse genetics, and cell biology, is revealing processes that control the patterning of hair and non-hair cells, the expansion and elongation of root hair cells before root hair growth, root hair cell polarity, and root hair development itself. All of these processes involve dynamic interactions between components, and dynamic models help us to test current hypotheses about mechanisms. Understanding how dynamic interactions produce changes in phenotype, like different patterns of growth and development, is essential for our work on root hairs, but there is surprisingly little previous work to go on. We are addressing this with some fundamental research into network dynamics and the dynamics of biochemical processes. We are also developing new approaches to explore how root hairs might benefit plants and the environment.