Daniel J. Cosgrove


Professor of Biology

 Mechanisms of Plant Cell Growth / Expansins / Cell Walls

  Link to the lab

Link to Expansin Site

Telephone: (814) 863-3892

Email: DCOSGROVE@psu.edu


bulletB.S., University of Massachusetts, 1974
bulletPh.D., Stanford University, 1980

Research Interests

Cell expansion plays a crucial role in shaping the form and size of plants. My research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cell expansion. By use of biophysical, biochemical and molecular techniques, in combination with whole-plant measurements, we are trying to determine (a) which processes limits growth under normal and stressed conditions and (b) how plants regulate their growth rates. Current projects include the following:

Mechanisms of Cell Enlargement - Wall Loosening Proteins
 We have identified a highly conserved family of proteins - named expansins - that catalyze wall extension. For this work we devised a novel reconstitution assay to measure the ability of extracted proteins to induce extension of isolated walls, and then purified the active fractions using HPLC, electrophoresis and related techniques. We have found that expansins do not act by the conventional theory of wall loosening by polysaccharide hydrolysis; rather, they disrupt hydrogen bonding between wall polysaccharide in a unique way that might have commercial applications.
 Current work is focused on the molecular genetics and biochemistry of expansins, for a deeper understanding of the function and evolution of these proteins. By use of transgenic plants with alterations in the expression of expansins, we plan to decipher the role of these proteins in cell enlargement, plant morphogenesis, and wall structure. Identification of genetic mutants in which T-DNA or transposon insertions interrupt expansin genes is also underway. In our studies to date, we have found that expansins are phylogenetically widespread and may serve a common function in regulating wall yielding and cell expansion in vascular plants.

Grass pollen allergens as b-expansins
Group I allergens are the major allergens of grass pollen and cause seasonal asthma and related immune response in many people. We showed these group-I allergens to be structurally related to expansins. Extracts of maize pollen possess potent expansin-like activity, as measured in wall extension and wall stress relaxation assays. This activity is selective for grass cell walls and is, at least partly, due to the action of maize group I allergens. It is likely that group I allergens facilitate invasion of the pollen tube into the maternal tissues by loosening the cell walls of the grass stigma and style.  Additionally, the presence of related mRNAs in vegetative tissues of rice, Arabidopsis and soybean implies that allergen homologs may function to loosen walls in growing vegetative tissues as well. Future work will examine the development roles and biochemical functions of this subfamily of expansins.

Growth Adaptations to Water Stress
 Growing maize roots respond to mild water deficits by increasing the extensibility of cell walls in the apical growth zone, thereby permitting  the roots to continue to grow. We are exploring the molecular basis of this change in wall properties. Part of this adaptive response appears to be mediated by a build up of expansins in the cell walls. Other possible changes in wall structure are also being explored.

Mechanisms of Gravitropism and Phototropism
 Plants sense gravity and light, and modulate their growth so that they bend towards or away from the stimulus. Our studies show that growth is altered by dramatic changes in the wall extensibility of the growing tissues. However, the biochemical means by which this is accomplished is largely unknown. We are pursuing the idea that transient changes in the wall environment, such as redox potential or pH, affect the activity of wall loosening and stiffening enzymes to modulate wall expansion. Expression of expansins and other wall-loosening factors may also play a role in these growth phenomena.

Selected Recent Publications

  1. Sampedro J. and D.J. Cosgrove. 2008. Genomic History and Gene Family Evolution in Angiosperms: Challenges and Opportunities. Genome Dynamics 4: (in press)
  2. Valdivia E.R., Sampedro J., Lamb C., Chopra S., and Cosgrove, D.J. 2007. Recent Proliferation and Translocation of Pollen Group 1 Allergen Genes in the Maize Genome. Plant Physiology 143: 1269-81
  3. Valdivia E.R., Wu Y., Li L.-C., Cosgrove D.J. and A.G. Stephenson. 2007. A group-1 grass pollen allergen influences the outcome of pollen competition in maize. PloS One E154 (7 p)
  4. Yennawar N, L.-C. Li, D.M. Dudzinski, A. Tabuchi, and D.J. Cosgrove. 2006. Crystal structure and activities of EXPB1 (Zea m 1), a beta-expansin and group-1 pollen allergen from maize. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103: 14664-14671
  5. Sampedro, J., Carey, R. E. and D. J. Cosgrove. 2006. Genome histories clarify evolution of the expansin superfamily: new insights from the poplar genome and pine ESTs. J. Plant Res. 119: 11-21
  6. Cosgrove, D. J. Growth of the plant cell wall. 2005. Nature Review Molecular & Cell Biology, 6: 850-861.
  7. Marga, F.; Grandbois, M.; Cosgrove, D. J. and T. I. Baskin. 2005. Cell wall extension results in the coordinate separation of parallel microfibrils: Evidence from scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy. Plant J. 43:181-90.
  8. Sampedro J., Cosgrove, D. J. 2005.  Protein Family Review: Expansins. Genome Biology, 6: 242-250.
  9. Li, L.-C.; Bedinger, P.A.; Folk, C.; Jones, A.D.; Cosgrove,D.J. 2003 Purification and characterization of four β-expansins (Zea m 1 isoforms) from maize (Zea mays L.) pollen. Plant Physiology 132:2073-85
  10. Cosgrove, D.J., Li, L.-C., Cho, H.T., Hoffmann-Benning, S. Moore, R.C., Blecker, D. 2002. The growing world of expansins. Plant & Cell Physiology 43: 1236-1244
  11. Cho, H. T. and D. J. Cosgrove. 2002. The regulation of Arabidopsis root hair initiation and expansin gene expression by development, hormone, and environment factors. Plant Cell 14: 3237-3253
  12. Li L. C.  and D. J. Cosgrove. 2001.  Grass group I pollen allergens (beta-expansins) lack proteinase activity and do not cause wall loosening via proteolysis. Eur.J.Biochem. 268:4217-4226.
  13. Yuan, S.,  Y. Wu, and D. J. Cosgrove. 2001. A fungal endoglucanase with plant cell wall extension activity. Plant Physiol 127:324-333.
  14. Wu, Y.,  R. B. Meeley, and D. J. Cosgrove. 2001Analysis and Expression of the alpha-Expansin and beta-Expansin Gene Families in Maize. Plant Physiol 126:222-232.
  15. Wu, Y.,  E. T. Thorne, R. E. Sharp, and D. J. Cosgrove. 2001Modification of expansin transcript levels in the maize primary root at low water potentials. Plant Physiol 126:1471-1479.
  16. Cho, H. T.  and D. J. Cosgrove. 2000. Altered expression of expansin modulates leaf growth and pedicel abscission in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.USA 97:9783-9788.
  17. Cosgrove, D.J. 2000.  Loosening of plant cell walls by expansins. Nature 407:321-326.
  18. Im, K. H., D. J. Cosgrove, and A. M. Jones. 2000. Subcellular localization of expansin mRNA in xylem cells. Plant Physiol 123:463-470.
  19. Cosgrove, D.J. 2000. New genes and new biological roles for expansins. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 3:73-78
  20. Cosgrove, D.J. 2000. Expansive growth of plant cell walls. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 38:1-16
  21. Cosgrove, D.J. 1999. Enzymes and other agents that enhance cell wall extensibility. Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. Plant Mol. Biol. 50: 391-417
  22. Fenwick, K.M., Apperley, D. C., Cosgrove D. J., and Jarvis, M. C. 1999. Polymer mobility in cell walls of cucumber hypocotyls. Phytochem. 51:17-22
  23. Cosgrove, D.J., Bedinger, P.A., and Durachko, D.M. 1997. Group I allergens of grass pollen as cell wall loosening agents. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 94: 6559-6564
  24. Link, B. M.  and Cosgrove D. J. 1998. Acid-growth response and a-expansins in suspension cultures of bright yellow 2 tobacco. Plant Physiol. 118:907-916
  25. Veytsman, B. A. and Cosgrove D. J. 1998. A model of cell wall expansion based on thermodynamics of polymer networks. Biophys.J. 75:2240-2250
  26. Cosgrove, D.J. 1997. Relaxation in a high-stress environment: The molecular basis of extensible walls and cell enlargement. Plant Cell, 1031-1041
  27. Shcherban,T., J. Shi, D.M. Durachko, M.J. Guiltinan, S.J. McQueen-Mason, Cosgrove, D.J. 1995. Molecular cloning and sequence analysis of expansins - a highly conserved, multigene family of proteins that catalyze cell wall extension in plants.  Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 92:9245-9249

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This page was last updated on 09/05/08.