Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Penn State Science
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Ying Gu

Ying Gu

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  • Associate Head for Equity & Diversity
  • Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
262 North Frear Laboratory
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 867-3827

Research Interests

Mechanism of cellulose biosynthesis in arabidopsis

Graduate Programs


Research Summary

A long-term goal of our research is to gain a deeper understanding of the regulation of cellulose biosynthesis so that the fundamental knowledge can be transferred for designing new cellulosic materials with diverse economic applications. Cellulose microfibrils are synthesized at the plasma membrane by hexameric protein complexes, also known as cellulose synthase complexes (CSCs). My lab focuses on identification and characterization of novel components in CSCs and advancing our understanding in assembly, delivery, and regulation of CSCs. The cutting-edge live cell imaging will be used to visualize CSCs in living plant cells and to assess individual components’ function in CSCs. Together with biochemical, molecular genetics, and spectroscopic approaches we will further our knowledge of how plant cells make cellulose and provide unprecedented perspective that aids to increase the efficiency of biomass-based energy production.

(Click on image above for higher resolution)

Figure 1. Putative interaction mode of CSI1 with Cellulose Synthase Complex (CSC) and microtubule. A. CSI1 protein adopts an open loop configuration with its central domain binding to the CSC and N- and C-termini interacting with microtubules. Within CSI1 protein the alpha-helices are red and the beta sheets are green. Adapted from Lei et al., 2015. B. Model of parallel alignment of cellulose microfibrils and cortical microtubules.  CSI proteins bridge between CSC and microtubules

Cellulose microfibrils are aligned in parallel with an array of microtubules in the cell cortex. Cortical microtubules are long known to influence the direction in which cellulose micorfibrils are deposited. However, the mechanism by which microtubules guide cellulose deposition has not been defined at the molecular level. Our laboratory was the first to discover that the information flow from cortical microtubules to extracellular cellulose microfibrils is dependent on CSI1, a key molecular linker protein named cellulose synthase interactive protein 1 (Figure 1). With this molecular link in our hand, we now begin to unravel the mystery of regulation of cellulose biosynthesis, which is critical to the growth morphogenesis of plant cells.

Cellulose microfibrils are synthesized exclusively at the plasma membrane. Therefore the trafficking of CSC to and from the plasma membrane becomes an important topic of our research. Our laboratory uses cellulose synthase, a plant cell-specific cargo protein, to understand how endocytic and exocytotic trafficking have evolved and are used by eukaryotic cells for diverse process (Figure 2).

Dr. Ying Research Summary Figure 2

(Click on the image above for higher resolution)

Figure 2. A snapshot of the localization and trafficking pathways of CSCs. CSCs are synthesized in ER and delivered to Golgi for assembly. From Golgi to the plasma membrane, delivery may occur directly from Golgi, the trans-Golgi network (TGN) or through an intermediate compartment such as the SmaCCs/MASCs. The amount of CSC is controlled by exocytosis-mediated delivery, endocytic pathway, and recycling pathway. Adapted from Lei et al., 2015.

Representative Publications

Selected Publications

  • Li S, Bashline L, Zheng Y, Xin X, Huang S, Kong Z, Kim SH, Cosgrove D, Gu Y (2016) Cellulose synthase complexes act in a concerted fashion to synthesize highly aggregated cellulose in secondary cell walls of plants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113(40): 11383-11353
  • Wang C, Hu T, Yan X, Meng T, Wang Y, Wang Q, Zhang X, Gu Y, Sánchez-Rodríguez C, Gadeyne A, Lin J, Persson S, Van Damme D, Li C, Bednarek SY, Pan J (2016) Differential regulation of Clathrin and its adaptor proteins during their membrane recruitment in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 171(1): 215-229
  • Li S, Lei L, Yingling YG, Gu Y (2015) Microtubules and cellulose biosynthesis: the emergence of new players. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 28: 76-82
  • Bashline L, Li S, Zhu X, Gu Y (2015) The TWD40-2 protein and the AP2 complex cooperate in the clathrin-mediated endocytosis of cellulose synthase to regulate cellulose biosynthesis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(41): 12870-12875
  • Lei L, Zhang T, Strasser R, Lee CM, Gonneau M, Mach L, Vernhettes S, Kim SH, Cosgrove D, Li S, Gu Y (2014) The jiaoyao1 mutant is an allele of korrigan that abolishes endoglucanase activity and affects the organization of both cellulose microfibrils and microtubules in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 26(6): 2601-2616
  • Li S, Bashline L, Lei L, Gu Y (2014) Cellulose biosynthesis and its regulation. The Arabidopsis Book 11:e0169. doi: 10.1199/tab.0169
  • Lei L, Li S, Juan Du, Bashline L, Gu Y (2013) Cellulose synthase interactive 3 regulates cellulose biosynthesis in both microtubule-dependent and microtubule-independent manner. Plant Cell 25(12): 4912-4923
  • Bashline L, Li S, Anderson CT, Lei L, Gu Y (2013) The endocytosis of cellulose synthase in Arabidopsis is dependent on m2, a clathrin mediated endocytosis adaptin. Plant Physiol. 163(1): 150-160
  • Li S, Lei L, Somerville C, Gu Y (2012) Cellulose synthase interactive protein 1 (CSI1) links microtubules and cellulose synthase complexes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 109 (1) 185-190.
  • Gu Y, Kaplinsky N, Bringmann M, Cobb A, Carroll A, Sampathkumar A, Baskin TI, Persson S, Somerville C (2010) Identification of a cellulose synthase-associated protein required for cellulose biosynthesis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 107(29): 12866-12871
  • Gu Y, Deng ZP, Paredez AR, Debolt S, Wang ZY, Somerville C (2008) Prefoldin6 is required for normal microtubule dynamics and organization in Arabidopsis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105(46): 18064-18069
  • Gu Y, Li SD, Lord EM, Yang ZB (2006) Members of a novel class of Arabidopsis Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factors control Rho GTPase-dependent polar growth. Plant Cell 18: 366-381
  • Gu Y, Fu Y, Dowd P, Li SD, Vernoud V, Gilroy S, Yang ZB (2005) A Rho-family GTPase controls actin dynamics and tip growth via two counteracting downstream pathways in pollen tubes. J. Cell Biol. 169:127-138
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