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.
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.
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.
Future scientists take to the bench
September 20, 2018
The latest class of the Partners for the Future program visit the Lab and meet their mentors as they get to work
Unique communication strategy discovered in pathway controlling plant growth
March 22, 2018
Scientists have identified a receptor on plant stem cells that can issue different instructions about how the plant will grow.
The changing relationship between humans and plants, it’s complicated
November 3, 2017
CSHL scientists Dave Jackson, Doreen Ware, and Zachary Lippman give their perspectives on the rapidly changing relationship between humans and plants.
July 21, 2017
We've all heard of GMOs, but what exactly ARE they? Hannes, a plant scientist from CSHL's Dave Jackson lab, explains genetic modification.
Discovery of new stem cell pathway indicates route to much higher yields in maize, staple crops
May 16, 2016
Biologists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory explain how plants regulate the proliferation of their stem cells.