Dr. Keiko Torii is interested in understanding fundamental logics of development of multicellular organisms: How cellular interactions specify cell fate and pattern formation? Her group investigates cell-cell signaling pathways mediated by receptor kinases to address how positional signals are generated and how such signals ultimately coordinate plant cell proliferation and differentiation.
One of the systems she is interested in is stomatal patterning and differentiation. Stomata are microscopic valves on the surface of land plants that act as a passage for carbon-dioxide uptake and water release (transpiration). Proper stomatal development and function is essential for plant productivity and survival, as well as our global environment. Using Arabidopsis as a model organism, we and others recently discovered key signaling components and transcription factors directing stomatal differentiation. Such exciting discoveries opened Dr. Torii's eyes to explore the origin of stomata- the developmental innovation that allowed plants to successfully conquer the terrestrial environment.