Plant Stem Cell Regulation and Floral Patterning

Outline of Research and Education

We are interested in a holistic view of gene regulation in plant reproduction, which leads to developmental robustness and coordination. We explore signaling and epigenetic control in stem cell maintenance, environmental response and fertilization. To reveal molecular mechanisms, we use Arabidopsis as a model plant for genetic, reverse-genetic, biochemical and genomics approaches, as well as Brassicas and rice, to study conservation and diversification. Our students work at the frontiers of plant molecular genetics, developing their research, presentation and writing skills.

Major Research Topics

Floral stem cell homeostasis

Flowers originate from self-renewing pluripotent stem cells in the floral meristems (Fig.1). The maintenance and differentiation of stem cells are regulated by a well-coordinated interplay of cell-cell signaling and epigenetic regulation, leading to spatiotemporal-specific gene regulation. We study downstream cascades of the receptor kinase signaling pathway controlling stem cell homeostasis.

Stem cell termination and cell specification

In flower development, the stem cell activity is terminated in multistep pathways mediated by multiple transcription factors. We study transcriptional/epigenetic mechanisms and hormone signaling controlling stem cell termination and cell specification (Fig. 2).

Environmental response and acclimation

We study how plants memorize environmental temperature and light conditions and reveal the molecular mechanisms that confer the plasticity and robustness of the cascades under various environmental stimuli. These studies will serve as a basis of plant growth optimization for improved crop plant yields (Fig.3).

Mechanisms of dominant/recessive relationships in plants

Pollen determinant genes functioning for self-incompatibility are governed by a complex dominance hierarchy. We study the mechanisms of these dominant/recessive relationships regulated by a small RNA-based epigenetic mechanism and its evolution in Brassicaceae.



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Fig. 1
Fig. 1 Arabidopsis flower development
In flower development, the stem cell activities in the floral meristem are terminated (determinate), while the shoot apical meristem continues to grow.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2 Imaging of key transcription factors in floral meristems (left) and a differentiated myrosin cell (right)
Fig. 3
Fig. 3 Plant growth optimization
By revealing the mechanisms of floral stem cell regulation and environmental responses, we will develop a molecular basis for plant growth optimization for higher crop yield.
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