Every living cell in nature generates a complex and diverse array of glycans and glycoconjugates critical for the evolution, development, functions, and survival of various natural biological systems. As our understanding improves, scientists start to recognize that glycan modifications are no less important than the amino acid composition of polypeptides or nucleotide sequences of DNA and RNA. Glycan-rich cell walls control the growth and morphogenesis, determine cell-to-cell interactions and signaling, and provide resistance to different environmental stresses. Often, glycans attached to proteins and lipids determine their activity, solubility, and subcellular localization, and their structural organization in cells both during normal and stressed conditions. Glycans (polysaccharides) are also valuable raw materials for various industrial applications: wood, paper, fuel, textile, construction material, food and feed production, nutritional supplements, and pharmacological agents. Therefore, knowledge of the synthesis and metabolism of glycans is a fundamental aspect in understanding numerous functions performed by these critical molecules in any living cells, tissues, and the whole organism. Our lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of polysaccharide biosynthesis in Golgi. We utilize a broad range of approaches, including reverse-genetics, cellular, molecular, and structural biology, and biochemistry and a wide array of cells, including mammalian, plant, yeast and bacteria.
Specifically, we investigate the functional organization of the large Golgi localized multiprotein complex involved in biosynthesis of xyloglucan, a highly branched polysaccharide in plant cells. We chose this particular large glycan-synthesizing protein complex as a case of study and our goal is to elucidate all aspects of its molecular organization and the mechanics of its functioning. This will allow us to establish a better way of controlling polysaccharide biosynthesis and using them in various biotechnological and industrial applications. Another area of our research is to understand polysaccharide-mediated stress responses. We investigate how plant polysaccharides are modified during plant-microbe interactions, and which signaling pathways are induced by such polysaccharide modifications and are involved in cellular responses to environmental stresses.