Dr. Tamara WESTERN
[visit the Western Lab Website]

Tamara Western obtained her undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University, where she studied the mitochondrial genome of Chlamydomonas moewusii with Dr. Robert W. Lee. Her PhD (completed 1998) focussed on the plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana where she worked on ovule and seed coat development in the lab of Dr. George W. Haughn at the University of British Columbia. Continuing with Arabidopsis, she switched to flower development during a Postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of  Dr. Xuemei Chen at the Waksman Institute, Rutgers University (1999-2000). In 2001, Dr. Western returned to UBC to reinitiate her work on seed coat differentiation, leading into her current research topic. Since September 2003, Tamara Western has been Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and a member of the DBRI.

Research in the Western laboratory

Correct growth and development in plants is inextricably linked with the ability of cells to produce and/or modify their cell walls. Thus, a key challenge in plant biology is to understand the structure of cell walls and identify the mechanisms and proteins that are required to synthesize and modify them.

The epidermal cells of the Arabidopsis seed coat undergo a complex differentiation process in which there is sequential synthesis of pectinaceous mucilage followed by secondary cell wall production.

As a result, at maturity these cells contain a donut-shaped pocket of mucilage subtended by a volcano-shaped secondary cell wall. Wetting of mature seeds leads to the release of the hydrated mucilage gel, a process that appears to require cell wall weakening through modifying enzymes. The Western Lab uses these mucilage secretory cells as a model to study the processes and regulation of cell wall production and modification during plant development. In addition, the polar secretion of pectin during mucilage production also makes this system a good model with which to dissect the mechanisms of targeted secretion in plants.

Selected Publications

Western, T. L. (2006) Changing Spaces: The Arabidopsis mucilage secretory cells as a novel system to dissect cell wall production in differentiating cells. Can. J. Bot. 84: 622-630.

Western T.L., Young, D.S., Dean, G.H., Tan, W.L., Samuels, A.L. and Haughn, G.W. (2004) MUCILAGE-MODIFIED4 encodes a putative pectin biosynthetic enzyme developmentally regulated by APETALA2, TRANSPARENT TESTA GLABRA1, and GLABRA2 in the Arabidopsis seed coat. Plant Physiol. 134: 296-306.

Western, T.L., Burn, J., Tan, W-.L., Skinner, D.J., Martin McCaffrey, L., Moffat, B., and Haughn, G.W. (2001) Isolation and characterization of mutants defective in seed coat mucilage secretory cell development in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 127: 998-1011.

Western, T.L., Skinner, D.J., and Haughn, G.W. (2000) Differentiation of mucilage secretory cells of the Arabidopsis seed coat. Plant Physiol. 122: 345-355.

Abouheif] [Brouhard] [Dankort] [Dent] [Harrison] [Hekimi]
[Larsson] [Lasko] [Moon] [Nilson] [Roy] [Schöck] [Vogel] [Western] [Zetka]