Judith L. Bender
Mechanisms of Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation in Plants
The long-term goal of our laboratory is to understand the mechanisms of plant gene regulation at the molecular level. In particular, we are using both genetics and molecular biology to characterize gene regulation in the tractable laboratory plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Our work is divided into two major components. The first component involves characterizing a signaling pathway that connects environmental stimuli with changes in expression of genes in a particular biosynthetic pathway. The goal of this work is to elucidate how the plant senses and adjusts to its environment at the molecular level. The second component of our work involves understanding epigenetic control of gene expression. Although epigenetic regulation correlated with cytosine methylation has been observed in mammals (genomic imprinting), fungi (repeat-induced methylation), and plants (regulation of transposable elements), this fundamental process has not been elucidated for any organism. We have developed a powerful molecular genetic system in Arabidopsis to study epigenetic control. We are exploiting this system to understand how methylation and gene silencing are established, maintained, and reverted.