Atomic Force Microscopy of plant cell walls - I have, during the last two years, begun to use our newly purchased AFM to analyze surface roughness of natural materials. We have just completed a ground-breaking quantitative examination of the surface roughness of cotton fibers. We are continuing these investigations and are meeting with industry representatives and the USDA to begin a collaborative project.
Contractile plant organs - Certain plant cuticles have proven to be highly viscoelastic structures which store the energy created by turgor pressure and then use the energy to enact filament contraction. This heretofore unsuspected role for the cuticle makes it clear that the cuticle is a significant mechanical component of the plant cell wall. Our present research is aimed at understanding the mechanical properties of thistle cuticles with the atomic force microscope, and identifying the location of biopolymers that are essential for viscoelasticity by digesting away specific portions of the cuticle with enzymes.
Protein and molecular biology of phosphate ester hydrolyzing enzymes - Both of my graduate students are studying enzymes that utilize phosphate ester substrates in cells. One of these, acid phosphatase, is a ubiquitous constituent that may control the intracellular inorganic phosphate levels. We have made the startling discovery that this enzyme is activated by cytoskeletal proteins. The other enzyme is myosin, a key player in contractile activity. We are currently generating antibodies to specific portions of the myosin molecule and will use them to localize each of the several myosins that exist within each cell.
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