College of Arts and Science
PhD, 2008 University of Florida
Gene regulatory mechanisms controlling plant architecture traits in cereal crops
Research in the Eveland lab explores gene regulatory mechanisms that control architecture traits in cereal crops, particularly maize, sorghum, and millets. Of primary interest is inflorescence development, which directly influences grain-bearing capacity and therefore yield potential. Interestingly, we find core regulatory components of inflorescence architecture that also affect leaf architecture traits in a pleiotropic manner. A major focus of the lab is to define the cis-regulatory machinery that controls these pleiotropic loci in a spatiotemporal context, so that traits can be precisely manipulated independently of each other in order to achieve an optimal plant “ideotype” through precision engineering or genome-assisted breeding.
To investigate the developmental networks that control plant architecture, we implement both experimental and computational approaches. We generate genomics datasets that strategically capture developmental transitions and phenotypic variation, i.e. using mutants or natural variants, and then integrate them into biological network models. We also leverage results from GWAS experiments to prioritize polymorphic loci that may contribute to specific architecture traits. Hypotheses derived on candidate loci or genetic interactions that may affect architecture are tested using genetics and functional genomics experiments, for example genome editing approaches. Comparative analyses across grasses are also leveraged to determine conservation and divergence in developmental pathways. In addition, we are beginning to explore how these developmental networks interface with stress networks (e.g. in water and nitrogen limiting conditions) to identify control points for enhancing yield potential in suboptimal environments.