Joe Kieber is a plant molecular biologist recognized for his studies of signal transduction in plants. He is known predominantly for his work on the phytohormones ethylene and cytokinin, which are signaling molecules that regulate nearly all aspects of plant growth and development. Kieber was born in Long Branch, New Jersey and grew up along the New Jersey shore in Locust, a small suburb of New York City. He received a BS degree from Cornell University in 1984 where he studied Biology with a concentration in Genetics. He did his graduate work with Dr. Ethan Signer in the Biology Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying DNA topoisomerases in plants and receiving a Ph.D. in 1990. He did an NSF postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Joe Ecker’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania where he began his work on hormone signal transduction in plants, focusing on ethylene perception in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana. He became an assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993, and then joined the faculty in the Biology Dept. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999, where he is currently a Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Biology Department. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

My lab is interested in how cells communicate with each other to regulate growth and development in plants. We have focused on two signaling molecules, ethylene and cytokinin, which, like other phytohormones, are remarkably pleiotropic, influencing nearly every aspect of growth and development. Much of our work has been done with the model eudicot Arabidopsis thaliana. Our early studies focused on ethylene, for which we helped define a core signaling pathway as well as mechanisms regulating its biosynthesis. We shifted our focus to cytokinin, which was discovered in the 1950s by its ability to promote cell division in plants and was subsequently found to regulate many plant processes. Our studies help define the mechanisms by which cytokinin is perceived by plant cells, including its signaling pathway and the transcriptional changes mediating its response. We went on to characterize multiple diverse roles for cytokinin in both plant development and their response to environmental cues. More recently, we have expanded our studies of cytokinin function to rice, an important crop species and a model monocot. This will allow us to compare cytokinin activity and signaling in diverse plant species. Our early results suggest both shared and novel aspects of cytokinin function in these divergent species. Finally, we are also studying the signaling pathways regulating the synthesis of plant cell walls, again using Arabidopsis as a model. Plant cell walls are remarkably dynamic structures, and understanding how cells control their synthesis and properties is central to understanding plant growth and their response to the environment.

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Primary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology

Secondary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences