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Plant phenotype represents an integration of genetic, environmental, epigenetic and bioenergetic factors that influence a plant’s ability to interact with and adapt to its changing environment.  Our laboratory has identified one genetic component, MSH1, which appears to control phenotypic plasticity in plants.  Disruption of the gene produces phenotypic variation for male sterility, variegation, reduced growth rate, enhanced branching, delayed flowering, altered stomatal density, enhanced thermotolerance, and altered phytohormone and stress responses.  This variation occurs in every plant species that has been tested to date, including tobacco, tomato, soybean, millet, sorghum, maize and Arabidopsis.  The MSH1 gene encodes a protein that localizes to mitochondria and chloroplasts to control genome stability in these organelles. We, therefore, pursue the question of how MSH1, and organelle genome stability, influence phenotype in higher plants, and how this process might have participated in plant adaptation.


Systems biology studies integrate metabolic profiling, transcript profiling, and methylome analysis as large-scale research approaches.  Yeast 2-hybrid screening and co-immunoprecipitations also serve to help identify putative MSH1 protein interactors.  All of these approaches, as integrated datasets, produce immense experimental opportunity.  Members of our group are also involved in organelle genome assemblies to understand the dynamic nature of the plant mitochondrial and chloroplast genomes, and how the recombination activity of these genomes might influence plant growth behavior.