My laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms and gene regulatory networks through which plant steroid hormone, Brassinosteroid (BRs), regulate plant growth and stress responses. We use a combination of genetics, genomics, computational modeling and predicative phenomics approaches and model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in our research. Our long-term goal is to apply the knowledge generated from model systems to improve crop production under adverse climate conditions. There are several lines of research:
- Investigate the mechanisms and networks for BR regulated plant growth and stress responses using genomics, computational modeling and phenomics: We have previously established that BRs function through BES1/BZR1 family transcriptional factors to mediate BR responses (Yin et al., 2002, 2005). We have identified many BES1 interacting proteins and target genes, based on which we have established BR Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs, Yu et al., 2011, Guo et al, 2013, Nolan et al., 2017, Ye et al., 2017, Chen, et al., 2017, Chockalingam et al., 2017). We are currently investigating the functions of genes in the BR GRNs and the mechanisms of actions in plant growth and stress responses. We are also developing new phenotyping tools that can be used to study the functions of a large number of genes in GRNs. Our collaborators include M. Aluru, S. Aluru, P. Schnable, S. Sarkar, B. Ganapathysubramanian, D. Nettleton, L. Tang, S. Howell, and J. Walley. Supported by NSF and Plant Sciences Institute (PSI).
- Explore the crosstalk between brassinosteroid and autophagy signaling pathways: We have recently found that BR signaling component BES1 is targeted to autophagy pathway for degradation under drought and carbon starvation conditions through SINAT E3 ubiquitin ligase and ubiquitin receptor DSK2 (Nolan et al., 2017, Yang et a., 2017). In collaboration with D. Bassham and J. Walley, we are investigating the detailed molecular mechanisms and regulatory networks underlying autophagy and BR crosstalk. Supported by NIH and PSI.
- Define the functions and signaling pathways for the HERCULES Receptor-Like Kinases (HERKs): We have previously discovered that several CrRLK1L family receptor kinase genes, including HERK1, THE1 (THESEUS 1) and FER (FERONIA), are regulated by BRs and involved in plant growth and immunity (Guo et al., 2009; Guo et al.,2018 under revision). We are using multidisciplinary approaches to study signaling transduction pathways for these receptor kinases. Our current collaborators on this project include J. Walley and Y. Lee. Supported by LAS Signature Research Initiative (SRI).
- Determine the functions of brassinosteroid in crops: In collaborating with P. Becraft, C. Chu, E. Vollbrecht, T. Lubberstedt, M. Spalding and B. Yang, we are investigating the BR functions in maize and rice using CRISPR-cas9, Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) and functional genomics approaches (Kir et al., 2015, Tong et al, 2014, Hu et al, 2017). Supported by PSI.