My lab studies genes and signals in cells that regulate the growth and shape of plants. We have discovered several genes that control plant architecture by exerting an influence on stem cells. By identifying the genes that control the number of stem cells in corn plants, for example, we’ve discovered a means of boosting the yield of that vital staple.
David Jackson and colleagues study genes and signals that regulate plant growth and architecture. They are investigating a unique way in which plant cells communicate, by transporting regulatory proteins via small channels called plasmodesmata. These channels, which direct the flow of nutrients and signals through growing tissues, are regulated during development. The team discovered a gene encoding a chaperonin, CCT8, that controls the transport of a transcription factor SHOOTMERISTEMLESS (STM) between cells in the plant stem cell niche, or meristem. STM is critical for stem cell maintenance, and studies of the CCT8 gene indicate that movement of STM between cells is required for this function. The lab also continues to identify other genes that control plant architecture through effects on stem cell maintenance and identity, and their work has implications for crop yields. Recent examples include discovery of a subunit of a heterotrimeric G protein that is conserved throughout animals and plants, and their studies indicate that this gene controls stem cell proliferation. They have found that in plants, the G protein interacts with a completely different class of receptors than in animals. Their discovery helps to explain how signaling from diverse receptors is achieved in plants. This year, they also demonstrated that weak mutations in one of the receptor proteins can enhance seed production in maize, which could lead to yield increases. Separately, the lab has characterized system-wide networks of gene expression, using “next-gen” profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation methods that have revealed many new hypotheses in developmental networks controlling inflorescence development. They are also developing a collection of maize lines that can drive expression of any reporter or experimental gene in any tissue type—tools of great interest to maize researchers that are being made available to the broader scientific community, enabling experiments never before possible in crop plants.
Tweaking corn kernels with CRISPR
February 22, 2021
CRISPR genome editing can fast-forward the process of plant evolution. Researchers at CSHL are using the technique to increase kernel yield.
A healthy use for tobacco in coronavirus research
February 11, 2021
CSHL plant scientists grew fragments of coronavirus proteins in tobacco. They hoped to provide a cheap source of protein for virus and vaccine researchers.
Building a corn cob—cell by cell, gene by gene
January 26, 2021
CSHL scientists are piecing together the genes that control how corn develops.
Coronavirus research in plants
May 15, 2020
Purified coronavirus proteins are in short supply for COVID-19 researchers, so CSHL plant scientists are jumping in to make them.
Shifting the balance of growth vs. defense boosts crop yield
December 19, 2019
Researchers found that a specific gene in maize balances both growth of the plant and its immunity.
Plant scientist David Jackson–A CSHL PI profile
November 5, 2019
CSHL Professor David Jackson studies mutated corn and flowers.
An essay from the President: Biology for the planet
May 16, 2019
CSHL plant scientists are looking for solutions to the biggest questions in agriculture as environments are reshaped by climate change.
To protect stem cells, plants have diverse genetic backup plans
April 15, 2019
Experts discover how an essential genetic circuit found in all flowering plants, regardless of species, is protected in startlingly different ways.
Crop yield in maize influenced by unexpected gene ‘moonlighting’
April 1, 2019
Yield of the maize plant is tied to activity of a gene called RAMOSA3, but new evidence suggests the gene performs other unexpected functions
AAAS names two CSHL faculty as 2018 Fellows
November 27, 2018
David Jackson and Jan A. Witkowski were both named 2018 AAAS Fellows for their work in the fields of agriculture and biology.