Research Laboratories

Dr. Maureen Barr

Survival requires strategies to identify and attract mates. How sensory neurons receive sex- specific signals and how multiple sensory stimuli are integrated to produce innate, stereotyped behaviors is poorly understood. To attack this problem,  the Barr Laboratory studies the molecular basis of sex-specific and sensory behaviors in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which is tractable to molecular genetic, cell biological, and physiological approaches. There are three main areas of research in our laboratory, all using C. elegans as a simple animal model. First, we are interested in sensory biology and behaviors. Second, we study receptor trafficking and signaling in cilia. Finally, we have developed a C. elegans model for Nephronophthisis, a human genetic disease of cilia. The unifying theme of all three areas is the understanding of how a ciliated sensory neuron is specified in form and function.

Dr. G. Charles Dismukes

To mitigate many of the potentially deleterious environmental and agricultural consequences associated with current landbased-biofuel feedstocks, we advocate the use of biofuels derived from aquatic microbial oxygenic photoautotrophs (AMOPs), more commonly known as algae, cyanobacteria and diatoms. Our research on AMOPs addresses: 1) their demonstrated productivity in mass culturing and future potential as biomass energy crops, 2) use as cell factories for production of gaseous fuels (H2, CH4), 3) fundamental photosynthetic physiology and mechanisms, 4) genetic transformants for understanding mechanisms and improving fuel production.

Dr. Juan Dong

Cell polarity, in both animals and plants, is of paramount importance for many developmental and physiological processes. In the future, my lab will continue to use Arabidopsis as a model system, by studying BASL (Breaking of Asymmetry in the Stomatal Lineage) and other newly identified factors, to investigate how proteins become polarly localized, how polarity proteins are involved in establishment of cellular asymmetry, and how cell polarity is instructive of cell fate and differentiation in plants.

Dr. Hugo K. Dooner

Our lab performs studies on genome structure, homologous meiotic recombination, and functional genomics in maize. Transposons are the main consitutents of the maize genome. We study their structures and interactions and use them as genetic tools to elucidate the function of genes. A main question that we are addressing is the effect of the highly polymorphic intergenic retrotransposon clusters on recombination. We are presently characterizing the bz region in the genome of different inbreds, land races, and wild relatives of maize in order to further document the extent of the variability and function of its genome stucture. 

Dr. Richard H. Ebright

Transcription--synthesis of an RNA copy of genetic information in DNA--is the first step in gene expression and is the step at which most regulation of gene expression occurs. Richard H. Ebright's lab seeks to understand structures, mechanisms, and regulation of bacterial transcription complexes and to identify, characterize, and develop small-molecule inhibitors of bacterial transcription for application as antituberculosis agents and broad-spectrum antibacterial agents.

Dr. Andrea Gallavotti

Our research is aimed at understanding i) how pluripotent meristematic cells are formed during development; ii) how meristem fate and organ initiation are regulated; iii) the role of the plant hormone auxin in shaping plant architecture and regulating meristem function (www.auxinevodevo.org); iv) the molecular mechanisms of plant domestication and evolution.  

Dr. Kenneth D. Irvine

Our current research focusses on a novel signaling pathway, the Fat-Hippo pathway, which play important roles in growth control from Drosophila to humans. We study both the molecular mechanism of Fat-Hippo signaling, and its developmental functions.

Dr. Pal Maliga

Research in the laboratory is addressing problems of plastid genetics, plastid transgene biosafety and biotechnological applications of plastid transformation. We use Nicotiana tabacum and its dipoloid progenitor Nicotiana sylvestris, Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula as model systems in our research.

Dr. Kim S. McKim

Meiosis is the process by which the chromosome number is divided precisely in half.  When defects occur in the meiotic process the oocyte or sperm receives an abnormal number of chromosomes (aneuploidy).  Aneuploidy is usually catastrophic and is the leading cause of infertility in women and the cause of disorders such as Down’s syndrome.  Research in my laboratory is directed towards understanding meiosis in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster.  By utilizing the experimental benefits of Drosophila, mutations that disrupt various steps in the meiotic program can be isolated and characterized.  Currently, the lab focuses on two of the most important aspects of meiosis: i) the repair of programmed double strand breaks (DSB) in the DNA into crossovers, and ii) the involvement of crossovers in the segregation of homologous chromosomes.

Dr. Joachim Messing

Selman Waksman Chair in Molecular Genetics, Director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, and Principal Investigator of Plant Genome Initiative Research project. The Messing lab would like to contribute to the understanding of the regulation of the expression of gene copies in plants. It is now apparent that many gene products are derived from multiple gene copies. If these copies arose recently, their sequences are quite conserved or similar so that it is becomes difficult to infer from gene products from which gene they are produced. Therefore, it becomes necessary to sequence the genome of an organism so that one can sort gene copies in their location on chromosomes. Then one can match each RNA species quantitatively with individual gene copies.

Dr. Bryce E. Nickels

Our lab studies transcription, the first step in gene expression, whereby the genetic information coded in the DNA is utilized for the synthesis of RNA. The findings could lead to the discovery of an exciting but previously unrecognized class of regulatory RNAs, and could also suggest novel strategies for treating or controlling microbial infections.

Dr. Richard W. Padgett

My laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of growth control. Our primary focus is on the transforming growth factor-β-like pathways (TGFβ) in C. elegans and Drosophila.

Dr. Christopher Rongo

Our research is focused on glutamate receptors, which are ligand-gated channels that mediate much of the excitatory communication between neurons in the brain. The trafficking of these receptors in neurons is thought underly synaptic plasticity, and their inappropriate activation is implicated in several diseases of the nervous system. A better understanding of these receptors will facilitate the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases attributable to neurodegeneration, and help us better understand the mechanisms behind learning and memory.

Dr. Konstantin Severinov

Understanding RNA polymerase (RNAP) structure and function is a key to understanding gene expression in molecular detail. The long-term objective of our research is to uncover the molecular basis of transcription mechanism and regulation through structure-functional analysis of bacterial RNAP and associated proteins. In addition, we use bacteriophage development as a model system to study temporal regulation of gene expression and to uncover novel mechanisms of transcription regulation. We also study microcins, small ribosomally-synthesized inhibitors of bacterial growth.

Dr. Andrew Singson

Fertilization is a biological process that has important social, economic and medical implications. Our primary research interest is the mechanisms of sperm-egg interactions. The long-term goal of research in the lab is to understand the molecular events that mediate gamete recognition, adhesion, signaling and fusion.

Dr. Ruth Steward

The Steward lab has research interests in the Toll-Dorsal (NF-kB/Rel) pathway functioning in establishing dorsal-ventral polarity in the early Drosophila embryo, in the humoral and cellular immune response, and in hematopoiesis.  The pathway is conserved in flies and vertebrates. In mammals it controls the immune and inflammatory responses and is critical for cell growth and survival. A large number of mammalian tumors are associated with mis-regulation of the NF-kB/Rel proteins.  We are also working on histone methylation and its effect on chromatin organization in Drosophila.

Dr. Andrew K. Vershon

Our research focuses on the transcriptional regulation of genes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Specifically. we are investigating how different regulatory proteins interact to control gene expression and how these interactions influence the regulatory activity of these proteins.