Skip to main content

Plant Molecular Biology Consortium


The Plant Molecular Biology Consortium sponsors monthly seminars featuring nationally recognized academic and industrial plant scientists. Membership is open to plant scientists associated with any of North Carolina's colleges or universities and any representatives from companies involved in plant molecular biology.

30th Annual Plant Molecular Biology Retreat
September 23 - 25, 2016
Wrightsville, NC

Keynote Speaker: Philip Benfey, Duke

Capstone Speaker: Mary-Dell Chilton, Syngenta

​View the full weekend schedule HERE


​​2015-2016 Seminar Series

Meetings are held from 6 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Meetings begin promptly at 6 p.m.; Light refreshments served at 7 p.m.  No registration required to attend.

Download 2016-17 Seminar Series flier

October 17, 2016

"Epistasis Time"

Dr. Dani Zamir
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment

"Epistasis Time"

Plant breeders advance food security by linking genes and genomes to traits affecting crop productivity. The availability of whole genome DNA markers made it possible to map quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting complex traits such as yield and its stability and to deploy them in breeding, in our case, better tomatoes. Now we have the tools to move beyond ‘one gene at a time’ and address a higher level of organization: the role of interacting gene communities in determining the phenotype. Mapping of epistatic genes is difficult because typically the populations are small and the two-dimensional genome scans carry a heavy statistical penalty due to the multiple comparisons. Yet, epistasis is the bread and butter of daily breeding where successful hybrids maximize the benefits from the introduced trait into the right genetic context. To zoom-in on epistatic QTL, we developed backcross-inbred lines (BILs) between the drought tolerant wild tomato species Solanum pennellii and the cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). After two backcrosses the BILs, composed of 3000 lines, were selfed and these are being phenotyped for diversity of traits. The results clearly show that it is possible to identify interacting genomic regions that lead to epistatic morphological species-specific phenotypes as well as influencing total yield in the field.

November 14, 2016

Dr. Scott Michaels
Indiana University

"Large-Scale Heterochromatic Remodeling Facilitates DNA Repair"

Arabidopsis pericentromeric heterochromatin is condensed into structures called chromocenters that are enriched in histone H3 lysine 27 monomethylation (H3K27me1). Previously, we have shown that this mark is deposited by the homologous proteins ARABIDOPSIS TRITHORAX RELATED 5 (ATXR5) and ATXR6.  We have used loss of function and gain of function mutants in these two proteins to investigate the role of H3K27 methylation in chromatin structure and gene regulation. atxr5,6 double mutants show a loss in H3K27me1 that results in the over replication of heterochromatin. This over replication results in DNA damage and extensive chromocenter remodeling into unique structures we have named Over Replication-Associated Centers (RACs). Super-resolution microscopy shows that RACs have a highly ordered structure, with an outer layer of condensed heterochromatin, an inner layer enriched in the histone variant H2Ax, and a low-density core containing foci of phosphorylated H2Ax (a marker of double-strand breaks) and the DNA-repair enzyme RAD51.  These results suggest a novel mechanism for heterochromatic DNA-damage repair that involves large-scale chromatin remodeling.  Using gain-of-function mutants in ATXR5/6, we are able to replace heterochromatic H3K27me1 with H3K27me2 or H3K27me3.  In this way, we have been begun to investigate the functional significance of H3K27 methylation level on chromatin structure, DNA replication, and gene regulation. 

February 13, 2017

Dr. Ralph Panstruga
RWTH Aachen University

March 27, 2017

Dr. Siobhan Brady
UC Davis

April 10, 2017

Dr. Magdalena Benzanilla
UMass Amherst

             We'd like to thank our Corporate Members:

Bayer Crop Science


Return to the EG homepage