Our lab employs two different model systems, Arabidopsis thaliana and Fragaria vesca, to investigate fundamental questions in higher plant development. We are particularly interested in identifying key regulatory genes and signaling pathways that control flower and fruit development.
The work on Arabidopsis thaliana has been focused on dissecting the molecular mechanisms underlying domain-specific expression of floral homeotic genes, in particular, AGAMOUS and miR172. Two transcriptional co-repressors LEUNIG and SEUSS, together with their DNA-binding partner proteins such as APETALA1 and SEPALLATA3, act to restrict the expression of AGAMOUS to the inner floral whorls. A second project in the lab investigates how a putative chromatin complex component, TSO1, coordinates cell division with cell differentiation during flower development. Although much has been worked out on how specific floral organ identifies are specified, little is known about how floral organs develop and differentiate into their final size, shape, and morphology.
The work on diploid strawberry, Fragaria vesca, represents a new direction of the lab. Unlike the commercial strawberry varieties, diploid strawberry, Fragaria vesca, has a small size (200-250 MB) genome, short life cycle (3.5 months), and facile transformation systems. There is a ongoing effort in its genome sequencing, and it serves as an excellent model for other Rosaceae species, many of which produce fruits, nuts, and horticultural varieties. We are currently focusing on understanding F. vesca's unique aspects of flower and fruit development. In particular, we are interested in dissecting the molecular mechanisms underlying the cross-talk between phytohormone auxin and fruit development. For more detail, please visit our NSF funded project site (GEPR: Flower and Fruit Development in Diploid Strawberry).