Bezanilla Lab
Research & Publications



How plant cells grow, one of the most fundamental aspects of plant biology, remains an open question. Our research focuses on understanding how proteins within the cell direct and regulate plant cell growth and morphogenesis. We are particularly interested in the role of regulators of the filamentous actin cytoskeletal network and have pioneered the use of the moss Physcomitrella patens to show that regulators of actin dynamics are critical for proper cell growth.

Among plants, moss has exceptionally rapid transgenic capabilities and is the only known land plant that undergoes efficient homologous recombination. My lab has developed additional tools, such as RNA interference (RNAi), quantitative complementation analyses, and rapid quantitative growth assays, which will enable a molecular characterization of plant cell growth.

The ultimate goal of our research is to use directed and undirected approaches to uncover the molecular basis of cell growth. As a basic understanding emerges from these functional genomic studies, it may be possible to manipulate attributes of other plants. For example, gene discovery for increased plant biomass may support new and innovative renewable energy sources.

Recent studies in the lab have lead to a working model (Figure 1) for how tip growth in moss cells is controlled at the molecular level. We hypothesize that actin dynamics are required to establish and maintain an apical cortical F-actin structure that is required for transport of exoctyic vesicles delivering new growth material to the apex of the cell.

Figure 1

  •  Bao Y, Hu G, Flagel LE, Salmon A, Bezanilla M, Paterson AH, Wang Z, Wendel JF. (2011) Parallel up-regulation of the profilin gene family following independent domestication of diploid and allopolyploid cotton ( Gossypium ). PNAS 108 : 21152 21157.

  •  Augustine RC, Pattavina KA, Tuzel E, Vidali L, and Bezanilla M. (2011) Actin Interacting Protein 1 and Actin Depolymerizing Factor Drive Rapid Actin Dynamics in Physcomitrella patens . Plant Cell , 23 : 3696-3710.

  •  Wu S, Ritchie JA, Pan A, Quatrano RS, and Bezanilla M. (2011) Myosin VIII Regulates Protonemal Patterning and Developmental Timing in the Moss Physcomitrella patens . Molecular Plant 4 : 909-921.

  •  Prigge MJ and Bezanilla M . (2010) Evolutionary Crossroads in Developmental Biology: Physcomitrella patens , Development 137 : 3535-3543.

  •  Vidali L, Burkart GM, Augustine RC, Kerdavid E, Tuzel E, and Bezanilla M. (2010) Myosin XI is Essential for Tip Growth in Physcomitrella patens . Plant Cell , 22 : 1868-1882.

  •  Vidali L, Augustine RC, Fay SN, Franco P, and Bezanilla M. (2009c) Rapid screening for temperature sensitive alleles in plants. Plant Physiology 151 (2): 506–514.

  •  Vidali L, vanGisbergen PAC, Guerin C, Franco P, Li M, Burkart GM, Augustine RC, Blanchoin L, and Bezanilla M, (2009b) Rapid formin-mediated actin-filament elongation is essential for polarized plant cell growth. PNAS 106 :13341-6.

  •  Vidali L, Rounds C, Hepler PK, and Bezanilla M. (2009a) LifeAct-mEGFP reveals a dynamic apical F-actin network in tip growing plant cells. PLoS one 4 : e5744.

  •  Augustine RC, Vidali L, Kleinman KP, and Bezanilla M, (2008) Actin Depolymerizing Factor is Essential for Viability in Plants and Its Phosphoregulation is Important for Tip Growth. The Plant Journal 54 : 863-875.

  •  Vidali L, Augustine RC, Kleinman KP, and Bezanilla M, (2007) Profilin is essential for polarized growth in the moss Physcomitrella patens . The Plant Cell 19 : 3705-3722.

  •  Cove DJ, Bezanilla M, Harries PA, and Quatrano RS, (2006) Mosses as model systems for the study of metabolism and development. Annual Review of Plant Biology 57 :497-520.

  •  Bezanilla M, Perroud P-F, Pan A, and Quatrano RS, (2005) An RNAi System in Physcomitrella patens with an Internal Marker for Silencing Allows for Rapid Identification of Loss of Function Phenotypes. Plant Biology 7 :251-257.


•  Bezanilla, M., Pan, A., and Quatrano, R.S. (2003) RNAi in the moss Physcomitrella patens . Plant Physiology 133 : 470-474.
Funding Sources:  


David and Lucille Packard Foundation National Science Foundation