Xuemei Chen is the Furuta Chair Professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and Institute of Integrative Genome Biology at University of California, Riverside. She is a plant molecular biologist recognized for her work on small RNAs and plant development. She is known particularly for her pioneering studies on plant microRNAs – their identification, biogenesis and degradation, and developmental functions. Chen was born in 1966, and grew up, in Harbin, a northeastern city in China, and became a US citizen in 2001. She graduated with her B.S. degree from Peking University in 1988, and was selected to participate in the CUSBEA (China-US Biology Examinations and Admissions) program that provided opportunities for Chinese students to pursue Ph.D. studies in US institutions. She received a doctorate from Cornell University in 1995. After postdoctoral training from 1995 to 1998 at California Institute of Technology, she started her assistant professor position in 1999 at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University. She was promoted to associate professor in 2005 and won the Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence at Rutgers University. She moved to University of California, Riverside in 2005 as an associate professor and was promoted to full professor in 2009 and endowed chair professor in 2010. In 2011, she was selected to be an HHMI-GBMF investigator.

Research Interests

Using Arabidopsis as the model, studies in the Chen lab investigate the biology of small RNAs, which are classified into microRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in plants. With genetic, biochemical, and genomic approaches, they have been studying the molecular mechanisms that govern the biogenesis, degradation, and mode of action of small RNAs. They are best known for the discovery of an essential step in small RNA biogenesis - the methylation of plant miRNAs and siRNAs on their 3' terminal ribose by the small RNA methyltransferase HEN1. Subsequent studies from others show that piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are similarly methylated by HEN1 homologs in animals. Efforts to uncover the role of methylation in small RNA metabolism have led to further pioneering studies on the molecular mechanisms of small RNA degradation. They have discovered two molecular processes that degrade small RNAs and the major players carrying out these processes. These processes of small RNA turnover have also been shown to be conserved in animals. The Chen lab also studies the mechanisms of cell fate specification in plant development, and has uncovered critical roles of miRNAs in the patterning of floral organs. Recent studies have revealed subcellular partitioning of small RNAs between the cytosol and membrane compartments, and begun to implicate the endomembrane system in the activity and cell-to-cell movement of small RNAs.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology