The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.

Elison Blancaflor, Ph.D.

Elison Blancaflor, Ph.D.
Elison Blancaflor, Ph.D.


Noble Researcher since 1999

Blancaflor Group | curriculum vitae | biosketch

Ph.D. Biology, 1996, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Research emphasis: Plant cell biology

The primary research goal in our group is to understand plant function at the cellular level. We are interested in the mechanisms by which plants sense changes in their environment and how such information is translated into a developmental or growth response. Within this framework, we are investigating a number of topics dealing with the regulation of growth directionality and signaling in plants. We use tip growing root hair cells as a model system because their well defined shape and location at the surface of the root make them ideal subjects for plant cell biological studies. Another area of research is to understand the phenomenon of gravitropism in plants. The directional growth and subsequent developmental patterns that a plant organ exhibits in response to gravity allow for correct anchorage, nutrient and water acquisition, seedling emergence and light absorption for photosynthesis. Of particular interest is the role of the cytoskeleton during gravitropic signaling and in maintaining polarized growth in tip growing plant cells.

We are also investigating the involvement of lipids in the regulation of plant development and defense/stress responses. Plant lipids, like their mammalian counterparts, have emerged as important signaling molecules that modulate plant responses to environmental stimuli. We have focused our efforts on a group of lipid mediators called N-acylethanolamines (NAEs). NAEs play a variety of neurological and physiological roles in animals, but their precise function in plants is not completely understood. We are closely collaborating with the group of Dr. Kent Chapman at the Center for Plant Lipid Research, University of North Texas and the group of Dr. Kiran Mysore to define the physiological role of these lipid mediators in plant development and response to abiotic/biotic stresses. Our research thus far indicates that the formation and degradation of NAE is important in mediating plant responses to the environment and that these fatty acid amides, like their mammalian counterparts, plays a role in plant stress signaling.

The primary approach of the lab is cell biology with emphasis on light microscopy of living plant cells (e.g., green fluorescent protein fusions, fluorescent ion indicators and confocal microscopy). These approaches are being complemented with a variety of techniques including biochemistry, genetics, genomics and molecular biology. In this regard, our group provides microscopy support to Foundation scientists, often through formal research collaborations. Relevant to this goal is the continued development and implementation of new cellular imaging methods, upgrading and maintenance of microscopy equipment, training and technical support, and educational outreach. The Noble Foundation Cellular Imaging Facility is currently equipped with a full range of equipment, including two point scanning confocal microscopes (Bio-Rad MRC 1024and Leica TCS SP2 AOBS), a Perkin Elmer UltraView spinning disk confocal system, a Zeiss laser capture microdissection system, a ratio-fluorescence and time-lapse imaging station and a variety of research-grade fluorescence microscopes each equipped with digital cameras. Funding for the lab's research activities has been provided by generous internal support from the Noble Foundation and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE).