Research Group of Dr Doug Muench, University of Calgary

Research Group of Dr Doug Muench, University of Calgary

Doug Muench is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary . His research group is interested in subcellular mRNA localization in plant cells. One area of interest is determining how mRNAs and organelles, such as peroxisomes, interact with the cytoskeleton in the cell to regulate the synthesis and import of proteins. The lab uses a number of plant cells, such as onion epidermal cells, as model systems.

Although mRNA localization has been characterized in more detail in animal systems, there are now several unique examples in plant cells. The lab’s main research aim is to identify and characterize proteins that are important in the localization process and to identify additional examples of mRNA localization in plant cells. Two of the proteins that they are studying are the plant ortholog of Mago Nashi and the peroxisomal multifunctional protein. This research is shedding light on the role of subcellular mRNA localization and the cytoskeleton on localized translation in plant cells.

Doug took his PhD at the University of Alberta where he studied the molecular biology of anaerobic stress in plants. He then moved to Washington State University for his post doctoral research at the Institute of Biological Chemistry where he studied messenger RNA localization. Doug maintained his interest in mRNA localization in his current position in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary .

His lab has used Openlab for a number of years to capture time lapse movies of organelle and cytoskeleton dynamics in plant cells. They measure the level of fluorescence of GFP fusion proteins in peroxisomes, and determine the rate of movement of these organelles as they travel through the cell. He has recently purchased a new Volocity Restoration Confocal system and plans to make use of the high acquisition rate in Volocity to capture time lapse movies with even greater detail than before. He will also use the Volocity Restoration module to more clearly observe the detailed structure of plant cells, which often demonstrate high levels of background fluorescence. These new capabilities will help his lab understand the complex role of the cytoskeleton in subcellular mRNA localization in plant cells.

Doug writes “The Openlab software has been extremely valuable for our real time imaging needs. We were able to generate high resolution and fluid image series using Openlab. We look forward to experiencing the high performance image acquisition and analysis modules associated with the newly upgraded Volocity software.”

Click here to view a real time image series of an onion epidermal cell transfected with the GFP-MFP construct (BMC Cell Biology 2005, 6:40 )

For more information about the research in Doug’s lab please visit their web page.

Expression pattern of a GFP fusion to the peroxisomal multifunctional protein (MFP) in onion epidermal cells. MFP is a peroxisomal matrix protein with activities involved in the beta-oxidation of fatty acids. The punctate structures represent peroxisomes, and the filamentous structures are microtubules. Inset is a confocal image (using Openlab software) showing a smaller region of a GFP-MFP expressing cell. We propose that the microtubule binding activity of MFP in the cytosol is important in its regulated import into peroxisomes. Bars, 20 µm and 3 µm (inset). Modified from BMC Cell Biology 2005, 6:40 .