Associate Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry, Ph.D. 1996, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine

Research Interests

Plant development depends on the accurate balance between cell proliferation and differentiation. Cell proliferation determines the shape and size of plants, and represents a key factor for engineering plants with higher biomass production. Majority of the cell proliferation activities take place in the meristem tissues. Cells originated in the meristems undergo differentiation but in some cases this differentiation is terminal and leads to the programmed cell death. Our research focuses on the identification and characterization of signaling pathways that control cell proliferation and understanding fundamental molecular mechanisms responsible for cell division. Our laboratory focuses on three broad research directions:

  1. Mechanisms of plant cytokinesis. Proliferation of cells critically depends on the organization and dynamics of probably the biggest known molecular machine, the phragmoplast. The phragmoplast separates daughter cells during cytokinesis by constructing a partition called the cell plate. Cell plate construction relies on phragmoplast expansion, which often spans hundreds of microns. Phragmoplast expansion depends on the precise coordination between cytoskeletal dynamics, membrane trafficking, and oligosaccharide synthesis. Our work aims at understanding phragmoplast construction and functions.
  2. Differentiation of plant vascular cells. Movement of water between vascular cells occurs through the specialized structures, known as pits. Unique morphology of pits in flowering plants plays a key role in survival under reduced soil moisture availability. We study genes that govern pit morphology in flowering plants.
  3. Phenotyping tolerance to abiotic stresses in plants. We develop a novel high-throughput phenotyping approach for predicting plant survival and yield under abiotic stresses.

Our work combines a variety of complex investigative procedures including biochemical techniques, molecular biology, genetics, live cell imaging, and cell biology. The findings of our projects will be harnessed for the development of new technologies aiming at improving traits of crops and industrially important plant species.

Selected Publications

  1. Smertenko A. (2018) Phragmoplast Expansion: the Four-Stroke Engine that Powers Plant Cytokinesis. Current Opinion Plant Biology, doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2018.07.011.
  2. Short E., Leighton M., Imriz G., Liu D., Cope-Selby N., Hetherington F., Smertenko A., Hussey P.J., Topping J.F. and Lindsey K. (2018) Epidermal expression of a sterol biosynthesis gene regulates root growth by a non-cell-autonomous mechanism in Arabidopsis. Development 15 doi: 10.1242/dev.160572.
  3. Smertenko A.*, Hewitt S.L., Jacques C.N., Kacprzyk R., Liu Y., Marcec M.J., Moyo L., Ogden A., Oung H.M., Schmidt S. and Serrano-Romero E.A. (2018) Phragmoplast microtubule dynamics: a game of zones. Cell Science 29, 131(2). pii: jcs203331. doi: 10.1242/jcs.203331.
  4. Smertenko A.* (2017) Can Peroxisomes Inform Cellular Response to Drought? Trends Plant Science 22, 1005-1007.
  5. Smertenko A.*, Assaad F., Baluska F., Bezanilla M., Buschmann H., Drakakaki G., Hauser M.-T., Janson M., Mineyuki Y., Moore I, Müller S., Murata T., Otegui M.S., Panteris E., Rasmussen C., Schmit A.-C., Šamaj J., Samuels L., Staehelin A., Van Damme D., Wasteneys G. and Žárský V. (2017) Plant cytokinesis: terminology for structures and processes. Trends Cell Biology 27, 885-894.
  6. Lehman, T.A., Smertenko, A. and Sanguinet K.A. (2017) Auxin, microtubules, and vesicle trafficking: conspirators behind the cell wall. J Experimental Botany 68, 3321-3329.
  7. Oles V., Panchenko A. and Smertenko, A.* (2017) Modeling hormonal control of cambium proliferation. PLoS One 12: e0171927, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171927.
  8. Fahy D., Sanad M. N., Duscha K., Lyons M., Liu F., Bozhkov P., Kunz H. H., Hu J., Neuhaus H. E., Steel P. G. and Smertenko, A.* (2017) Impact of salt stress, cell death, and autophagy on peroxisomes: quantitative and morphological analyses using small fluorescent probe N-BODIPY. Scientific Reports 7, 39069, doi:10.1038/srep39069. (This publication was amongst top 100 most read papers in plant science out of ca. 700 published in 2017).
  9. Moschou, P.N., Savenkov, E.I., Minina, E.A., Fukada, K., Reza, S.H., Gutierrez-Beltran, E., Sanchez-Vera, V., Suarez, M.F., Hussey, P.J., Smertenko, P. and Bozhkov, P.V. (2016) EXTRA SPINDLE POLES (Separase) controls anisotropic cell expansion in Norway spruce (Picea abies) embryos independently of its role in anaphase progression. New Phytologist, 212, 232-243.
  10. Moschou P., Gutierrez-Beltran E., Bozhkov P.V., Smertenko A. (2016) Separase Promotes Microtubule Polymerization by Activating CENP-E-Related Kinesin Kin7. Developmental Cell 37, 350-361.
  11. Smertenko A., Moschou P., Zhang L., Fahy D. and Bozhkov, P. (2015) Characterization of cytokinetic mutants using small fluorescent probes. Methods of Molecular Biology, 1370, 199-208.
  12. Ovecka M., Vaskebova L., Komis G., Luptovciak I., Smertenko A. and Samaj J. (2015) Preparation of plants for developmental and cellular imaging by light-sheet microscopy. Nature Protocols 10, 1234-1247.
  13. Gutierrez-Beltran E., Moschou, P.N., Smertenko, A.P. and Bozhkov, P.V. (2015) Tudor Staphylococcal Nuclease links formation of stress granules and processing bodies with mRNA catabolism in Plant Cell 27, 926-943.
  14. Smertenko A. (2014) Determination of phosphorylation sites in microtubule associated protein MAP65-1. Methods of Molecular Biology 1171, 161-170.
  15. Smertenko A, Bozhkov P. (2014) The life and death signalling underlying cell fate determination during somatic embryogenesis. In Nick P, Opatrný Z, eds. Applied Plant Cell Biology, Plant Cell Monographs 22, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 131-178.
  16. Kutik J., Kuthanova A., Smertenko A., Fischer L. and Opatrny Z. (2014) Cadmium-induced cell death in BY-2 cell culture starts with vacuolization of cytoplasm and terminates with necrosis. Physiologia Plantarum, 151 (4), 423-433.