What makes a cell into what it is? We are addressing this fundamental question in biology by investigating the signaling mechanisms that keep a stem cell undifferentiated. We have chosen stem cells in the plants as our subject, because plant stem cells have unique properties that cannot be studied in the same way in animals: Robustness of stem cell regulation during the life span of a plant, which in some tree species can be several thousand years. Totipotency, thus the ability to form a complete new organism from a stem cell, which is the case for the stem cells in the shoot meristem, from which ultimately new embryos derive. The communication with and adaptation to the environment, from which plants cannot run away. In our CIBSS project, stem cell adaptation to the environment plays the main role. We investigate how the stem cells in the root receive environmental signals, such as heat, drought, or salt in the soil, and how they adapt to harsh challenges due to the climate change. Our focus is on the epigenetic changes environmental signals cause in the stem cells and how this contributes to the survival strategy of the plant.
stem cells, epigenetics, environment, climate change, adaptation