Genomic and synthetic approaches linking auxin signaling to functional domains in maize

Imagine any characteristic of plants - from development of shoots and roots to responses to the environment and pests - and it is almost certainly shaped by the plant growth hormone, auxin. Plant cells have the ability to detect and respond to auxin. Thus, characterizing the network of molecular components that involved in detection and response will improve our understanding of the multiple auxin effects. The primary goal of this project is to identify the auxin-regulated molecular networks in corn, an economically important crop in USA. Characterizing the roles these networks play in the growth and development in the tassel and ear of corn will help devise strategies to improve yields. A team of scientists from four different American universities will carry out this work using the most modern biological techniques. This work will fundamentally change the landscape of developmental biology in corn, and will significantly accelerate the transfer of knowledge from the lab to the field. Results from this work will made publically available. The research team is strongly committed to mentoring a diverse group of future scientists and to increasing broad scientific literacy. This project will organize workshops aimed at expanding the professional skillsets of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral trainees. Scientists from the four institutions will collaborate to develop training modules that will involve hands-on experimentation. These modules will specifically target audiences from K-12 schools, colleges, and the public at large. This project addresses a cornerstone of developmental biology: how auxin action is specified by context-specific deployment of signaling components, and in particular, how auxin controls reproductive organogenesis. Team members have amassed a wealth of genetic, genomic and molecular resources in maize to answer the question of how axillary meristems are initiated to give rise to the reproductive structures in the tassel and ear. Prior work has shown that components of the auxin signaling machinery are expressed in three functional domains within the inflorescence: the suppressed bract leaf, the boundary domain, and the axillary meristem. Connecting auxin signaling modules with tissue-level events will require a detailed understanding of which interactions occur in specific tissues and at specific times. This challenge will be met with a highly integrated approach incorporating genomic and synthetic biology tools with sophisticated informatics and data visualization. Specifically, this project will: 1) define and characterize the auxin signaling modules (receptors, repressors, transcription factors) operating within functional domains of the inflorescence; and 2) construct gene regulatory networks incorporating co-expressed genes and targets of the auxin signaling modules.

NSF IOS #1546873

ARF DAP-seq screenshots
ARF DAP-seq screenshots