Leonard Pysh Profile


Dr. Leonard D. Pysh

Thornhill Professor


Department: Biology
Office: 406 Life Science




  • A.B. Wabash College, 1988 
  • Ph.D. University of California, San Diego, 1994

Research & Teaching Interests

Plant Biology
Cell Biology
Molecular Biology

Recent Publications

Li, Y, Kim, JI, Pysh, L, and Chapple, C. (2015) Four isoforms of Arabidopsis 4-Coumarate:CoA Ligase have overlapping yet distinct roles in phenylpropanoid metabolism. Plant Physiology 169:2409-2421.

Pysh, LD (2015) Two alleles of the AtCesA3 gene in Arabidopsis thaliana display intragenic complementation.  American Journal of Botany 102:1443-1451.

Pysh, L., Alexander, N., Swatzyna, L., and Harbert, R.  (2012) Four alleles of AtCESA3 form an allelic series with respect to root phenotype in Arabidopsis thalianaPhysiologia Plantarum 144:369-381.

Statement of Research Interests

Cells, the fundamental units of life, exist in an amazing array of shapes and sizes. These shapes and sizes, however, are so faithfully reiterated from generation to generation that they can be used to distinguish species within unicellular organisms and cell types within multicellular organisms. This faithful reiteration of cell shape indicates that the process of cell shape determination is carefully regulated at the molecular and cellular levels. Cell shape contributes to the form and function of higher orders of structure, such as organs, and, as a result, is an important aspect of development. Interestingly, very little is known about the genetic and molecular mechanisms by which cell shape is determined.

In my lab, we are using the simple plant Arabidopsis thaliana to address these genetic and molecular mechanisms. Arabidopsis has become a model plant as a result of its small size, its simple morphology, its rapid generation time, and its small genome. Arabidopsis roots are simple, consisting of four concentric rings of cells, these cells each having a stereotypical size and shape. Mutations that affect the shape of the cells in the root have been identified, and a number of the genes at these loci have been isolated. Our analyses of these genes have led us to focus on the cell wall and the interactions between genes that are involved in the synthesis of cellulose (the most abundant biomolecule on the planet) and those involved in the synthesis of lignin (the second most abundant biomolecule on the planet). Our data suggest a previously unknown role for the genes in lignin synthesis in the process of cell shape determination in the root.