The aerial organs of all higher plants are covered with a lipid-rich cuticle that serves to protect plants from their environment. The cuticle is comprised of a lipid polymer, cutin, that is embedded and covered with aliphatic waxes. Suberin is a biosynthetically-related lipid polymer that is found in tree bark, seed coats, the surface of mature roots and surrounding the vasculature of young roots. Suberin production is a ubiquitous response to wounding. Collectively, cutin and suberin comprise the most abundant, naturally occurring lipid polymers on the planet. It is estimated that leaf cuticles alone represent a surface area twice that of the earth’s land surface.
The Kosma lab is focused on understanding the complex plant lipid polymers cutin and suberin. We use a multidisciplinary approach combining biochemistry, analytical techniques and molecular genetics to comprehend the macromolecular structure and functional significance of these polymers with an emphasis on their role in plant tolerance to abiotic stress.