Bonnie Bartel is the Ralph and Dorothy Looney Professor in the Biosciences Department at Rice University. She is a plant geneticist who has dissected regulation of the growth hormone auxin, discovered specific functions of several plant microRNAs, and elucidated the roles, biogenesis, and turnover of plant peroxisomes. Bartel received her B.A. in Biology from Bethel College in North Newton Kansas. She received her Ph.D. in Biology in 1990 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she held an NSF Graduate Fellowship and studied the yeast ubiquitin system with Alexander Varshavsky. She was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research with Gerald Fink, where she began studying auxin metabolism in the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In 1995, Bartel joined the faculty of Rice University. In addition to the National Academy of Sciences, Bartel is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Research Interests

Bonnie Bartel's research group has contributed to understanding of auxin metabolism and microRNA functions and currently investigates the biogenesis, functions, and degradation of peroxisomes in Arabidopsis thaliana. The growth hormone auxin controls virtually all facets of plant development. Bartel's laboratory identified enzymes releasing auxin from precursors, discovered compartmentalization of auxin production in the endoplasmic reticulum and peroxisomes, and revealed the importance of different auxin sources during seedling development. Their discovery of a peroxisome-based pathway of auxin biosynthesis led her to explore the biogenesis, functions, and dynamics of this vital organelle. Peroxisomes compartmentalize critical metabolic reactions, thereby protecting the cytosol from oxidative damage. Through isolating and characterizing a suite of peroxisome-defective Arabidopsis mutants, Bartel's group has discovered organelle import factors, essential interdependencies among biogenesis components, and degradative pathways that control organelle remodeling.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 26: Genetics

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology