Emily Larson

How Does Extracellular Matrix Organization Affect Cell Shape and Function?


I received my BA in Biology from Bennington College in 2003. After graduating, I worked as a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under Dr. Linda Griffith until 2005, and then joined the lab of Dr. Nora Disis at the University of Washington. I worked with the Disis group until I was accepted into the CMB program in 2007. I currently study under Dr. Mary Tierney.

My research interests center around how the extracellular matrix affects cell function. For my thesis I am characterizing proteins involved in vesicular trafficking pathways that are sensitive to changes in extracellular matrix organization, and how endocytosis as well as secretion may be involved in matrix metabolism. I investigate how these pathways function in the polarized root hair cells in the plant model system, Arabidopsis thaliana.

I have presented aspects of my thesis work at several conferences, such as the Cell Wall XII conference in Porto, Portugal (2010), and the American Society of Plant Biologists conference in Minneapolis, MN (2011). I was also invited by Dr. Robert Ewy to be the ASPB Assisted Guest Lecture speaker for SUNY Potsdam’s Biology department’s lecture series in 2011.

Research Description

How does the organization of the wall affect cell shape and function? What causes plants to grow differently when components of their wall change? How do these changes in composition or organization change the way cells respond to environmental and cellular signals? These are the big questions that our lab is interested in investigating. To do this, we use the model system Arabidopsis and in particular, the root hair morphology, to study how the dynamics of the extracellular matrix (i.e. the cell wall) affect cell function.

We’ve identified several genes involved in vesicular trafficking pathways whose expression is sensitive to changes in cell wall organization. We’re interested in knowing if these proteins function in pathways that are important for cell wall biosynthesis. Current projects are focusing on characterizing the expression, localization, and function of these proteins within the compartments that make up the endocytic system, and how altering their expression or localization may relate to changes in the polarized growth of root hairs.

Another area of research is identifying interacting matrix networks within the root hair cell wall. Specifically, interactions with the cell wall structural protein PRP3, which is required for root hair growth. We have been using a genetic approach to ask if PRP3 is part of a network that interacts with cell wall components that compose other networks within the cell wall by crossing root hair cell wall mutants and looking for root hair growth phenotypes as indicators of genetic interactions.

Contact Info


Office: 306 Jeffords Hall

Lab: 318 Jeffords Hall

Lab Homepage


   Mary Tierney, Ph.D.

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  • 5/26/2015 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
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