Barbara Pickard, PhD

[img] Barbara Pickard

Principal Investigator

Barbara Pickard, Ph.D. is Professor Emerita of Biology and Faculty in the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Pickard’s research in the Gladys Levis Allen Laboratory of Plant Sensory Physiology has built on earlier interests in mechanosensing and responses by joining with faculty in the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences to share their diverse electromechanical modeling and analytical capabilities. The first publications from these new collaborations provides a first-ever look at a lysine-rich arabinogalactan protein by atomic force microscopy. Pickard’s team will report a biological model for the function of the protein in growth, control of stomata, and protection during drought. Coupled with that is an electromechanical model for achieving protein distributions.

Recently submitted is a demonstration that the hairs on an arabidopsis seedling shoot, shaped like antennae are elaborate mechanosensors that can focus force toward a skirt of cells at its base, buckle, and press against them to initiate oscillations of Ca2+ there. Finite element analysis shows that the trichome wall has thickened and tapered to promote such activity. Rapid elevations of cell wall pH are also seen. Finite element analysis shows that the trichome wall has thickened and tapered to promote such activity. The wall of the trichome itself undergoes four localized mechanoresponsive shifts of pH. We propose that this wall is the most elaborate ever described.

Keywords: electromechanical signalling in plants; mechanosensing and responses; arabinoglactan protein; cell wall; mechanobiology

Working Group(s):  Working Group 2: How do cells adapt to and change their mechanical environment?; Working Group 3: How do cells remember their mechanical environment?; Working Group 4: Crosscutting and Emerging Technologies