Research Interests

My research program investigates the regulation of gene expression using the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway in maize. I use this system to investigate mechanisms of gene silencing, which has a fundamental role in development and is a genetic engineering impediment. We study paramutation, the regulation of transposable elements and transgene silencing. Paramutation is a mitotically and meiotically heritable change in gene expression that is induced by allele interactions. My laboratory has shown that the heritable change is accompanied by a ten-fold reduction in transcription, which is associated with chromatin differences. Using a combination of classical genetics, genomics, and molecular methods we mapped the minimal sequences required for paramutation, to 95-102 kbp upstream of the transcription initiation site. We identified multiple genes required for paramutation and showed that these genes are also involved in transposon and transgene silencing. Currently I am using cis- and trans-acting mutants to investigate the mechanisms underlying paramutation and transposon and transgene silencing. As heritable changes in chromatin structure are involved in the establishment and maintenance of distinct transcription states, my laboratory is also using functional genomics to investigate chromatin-level control of gene expression in both maize and Arabidopsis.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology