Lazar Novakovic

Understanding how mechanical forces influence morphogenesis: the role of the putative mechanosensor DEK1

Research summary: Although sessile, plants still need to sense mechanical forces during their growth and development. Mechanical forces, generated by turgor pressure inside growing plant cells are actively shaping plant tissues and determine organ initiation and growth patterns. Growing cells in a plant tissue are “pushing” each other developing different mechanical stress patterns, which in turn changes localization of auxin fluxes, microtubules distribution and other factors influencing cell growth. This results in changes in plant cell wall synthesis and remodeling, resulting in changes in cell shape and growth.

Although very well understood in animals and yeast, mechanosensing is poorly explained in plants. My research I focused on protein called DEFECTIVE KERNEL1 (DEK1), a mechanosensitve regulatory cysteine protease, which is being activated after detecting a mechanical stress on the cell membrane. I am investigating role of DEK1 in cellulose synthesis dynamics, effect of DEK1 on mechanical properties of cell wall as well as its role in organ morphogenesis and growth in inflorescence apical meristem of Arabidiopsis thaliana. I am mostly employing various microscopy techniques ranging from laser scanning confocal microscopy, spinning disc confocal microscopy, to different atomic force microscopes, as well as genetic screens and a bit of biochemistry.

Project duration: 2016-2020


GR Profile:

I got my BSc in Biology in 2015 at University of Belgrade, Serbia.  During my masters I was investigating biosynthetic pathway of secoiridoid glucosides, very interesting secondary metabolites in a beautiful cute little medicinal plant called cenatury. After a bumpy road, I got my master degree in autumn of 2016. Then as a participant of MelPoPP I embarked on much greater odyssey, on a road more than 15000 km long, stretched between little village of Golm just under German capital Berlin, and Melbourne, a big metropolis on the very end of world. Right now, after spending 1.5 year in Australia at University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and University of Queensland, I am back in Golm at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, finishing my PhD.

In my free time, I enjoy reading books, hiking, watching movies and series, and cooking.


Matekalo D., Skorić M., Nikolić T., Novaković L., Lukić M., Božunović J., Aničić N., Filipović B., Mišić D., (2018), Organ-specific and genotype-dependent constitutive biosynthesis of secoiridoid glucosides in Centaurium erythraea Rafn, and its elicitation with methyl jasmonate, Phytochemistry, 155, pp 69-82,

Novaković L., Guo T., Bacic A., Sampathkumar A., Johnson, K. L., (2018), Hitting the Wall—Sensing and Signaling Pathways Involved in Plant Cell Wall Remodeling in Response to Abiotic Stress, Plants MDPI, 7 (4), 89,

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