Dr. Marcela Rojas-Pierce

Associate Professor

Cell Biology, vesicle trafficking, vacuole biogenesis


Research Interests

The vacuole is the major storage compartment in plant cells and has important implications for the nutritional value of agricultural crops. Our research is focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms that regulate the biogenesis of the vacuole and the delivery of tonoplast proteins to the vacuolar membrane. We use chemical and classical genetic approaches to characterize these mechanisms in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Plant vacuoles have additional functions in growth and development. Dynamics of vacuole fusion are also important for critical physiological functions such as the regulation of stomata closing during water deficit and gravitropism. Our lab is starting to elucidate molecular mechanisms of vacuole dynamics that may contribute to responses of plants to these environmental cues.

Selected Publications

Andres RJ, Coneva V, Frank MH, Tuttle JR, Samayoa LF, Han S-W, Kaur B, Zhu L, Fang H, Bowman DT, Rojas-Pierce M, Haigler CH, Jones DC, Holland JB, Chitwood DH, Kuraparthy V (2016) Modifications to a LATE MERISTEM IDENTITY1 gene are responsible for the major leaf shapes of Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). PNAS. Article

Alvarez A, Han SW, Toyota M, Brillada C, Zheng J, Gilroy S and Rojas-Pierce M. 2016. Wortmannin-induced vacuole fusion enhances amyloplast dynamics in Arabidopsis zigzag1 J. Exp. Bot. 67: 6459-6472. Article

Han SW, Alonso JM, Rojas-Pierce M. 2015. REGULATOR OF BULB BIOGENESIS1 (RBB1) Is Involved in Vacuole Bulb Formation in Arabidopsis. PloS one. 10:e0125621. Article

Zheng J , Han SW  and Rojas-Pierce M. 2014. Multiple vacuoles in impaired tonoplast trafficking3 mutants are independent organelles. Plant Signaling and Behavior. 9 (7): e29783Article

Zheng J., Han S.W., Rodriguez-Welsh M.F. and Rojas-Pierce M. 2014. Homotypic vacuole fusion requires VTI11 and is regulated by phosphoinositides. Molecular Plant.7: 1026-1040. Article

Rojas-Pierce M, Whippo CW, Davis PA, Hangarter RP, Springer PS. 2014. PLASTID MOVEMENT IMPAIRED1 mediates ABA sensitivity during germination and implicates ABA in light-mediated chloroplast movements. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry. 83: 185-193. Article

Rojas-Pierce M. 2013. Trafficking of Tonoplast Proteins to the Vacuole. Plant Science. 211: 132-136. Article

Dieck CB, Woods A, Brglez I, Rojas-Pierce  M and Boss WF. 2012.  Increasing phosphatidylinositol (4,5) bisphosphate biosynthesis affects plant nuclear lipids and nuclear functions. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry. 57: 32–44. Article

Rivera-Serrano E, Rodriguez-Welsh MF, Hicks G and Rojas-Pierce M. (2012) A Small Molecule Inhibitor Partitions Two Distinct Pathways for Trafficking of Tonoplast Intrinsic Proteins in Arabidopsis. PLoS ONE. 7(9): e44735. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044735.

Zou Y, Rojas-Pierce M, Raikhel NV and Michael Pirrung. 2008. Preparation of Methyl Ester Precursors of Biologically Active Agents. Biotechniques. 44: 377-384

Rojas-Pierce M, Titapiwatanakun B, Sohn EJ, Fang F, Larive CK, Blakeslee J, Cutler S, Peer WA, Murphy AS and Raikhel NV. 2007. Arabidopsis P-Glycoprotein19 Participates in the Inhibition of Gravitropism by Gravacin. Chemistry & Biology. 14: 1366-1376. Article

Sohn EJ, Rojas-Pierce M, Pan S, Carter M, Serrano-Mislata A, Madueño F, Rojo E, Surpin M and Raikhel NV. (2007) The shoot meristem identity gene TFL1 is involved in flower development and trafficking to the protein storage vacuole. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 104: 18801-18806. Article

Surpin, M, Rojas-Pierce, M, Carter, C, Vasquez, J, Hicks, GR and Natasha V Raikhel (2005) The Power of Chemical Genomics to Study the Link between Endomembrane System Components and the Gravitropic Response. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 102(13):4902-7. Article