Collaborative Research: Multiscale Characterization and-Dynamics Modeling of Stomatal Function in Plants
- View All
This grant will support research that will improve our understanding of the functions of stomata, the micro-size pores in plant leaf surfaces. As the gatekeeper of carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange between plants and their surrounding environment, stomata are not only crucial to the health of the individual plants, but also have a direct and global impact on the evolution of our entire ecosystem. However, currently our understanding of stomatal movement and function is limited by the conventional strategies that only captured static, averaged, and long-term macro scale behaviors of stomata. Little is known about the qualitative characteristics of stomata behavior and functions at the micro-scale, and their correlation with the underlying physiological processes of the host plant. This award supports fundamental research to create a multiscale dynamics modeling framework centered on instantaneous stomatal movement. Success of this research will create a unique, powerful tool for stomata studies and a game-changing sensing device for monitoring and controlling plants'' physiological activities, opening up and enabling a wide-range of fundamental biological research (e.g., defending mechanism of plants against insect attack, plant-environment interaction) and frontier agricultural applications (e.g., optimal crop growth control, rapid genotype to phenotype transition). Thus, results from this research will benefit both the U.S. society and the economy. The multidisciplinary nature of the research across dynamic system modeling and diagnostics, micro-electro-mechanical systems, and plant biology will help to attract and broaden participations of underrepresented groups in engineering and science fields, and positively impact engineering and science education. The multiscale characterization and modeling of stomatal movement can provide the tools needed for revealing the missing links between the internal molecular dynamics and the external cellular movement involved in stomatal regulation, and for mapping and correlating biomechanical evolutions of stomata and their underneath genetic roots. However, scientific challenges are yet to be addressed to establish such a modeling framework. The research team will create a biophysics-based multiscale stomatal dynamics model that links and correlates subcellular mechanical evolutions to microscale cellular activities during stomatal movement. The modeling approach will be built upon a novel atomic force microscope technique to quantitatively map nanomechanical evolutions during single stoma movement, and one-of-a-kind miniaturized sensors to measure the water vapor and electrical potential variations caused by the stomata movements. They will also identify, evaluate, and optimize the stomatal dynamics model through experiments, by using maize and Arabidopsis thaliana as example systems. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.