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Center for Genome Biology
The mission of the Center for Genome Biology (the Center, thereafter) is to develop and apply genomics tools to understand how plants regulate growth and development.
 
In 2016, scientists in the Center have made important advances in multiple fronts, including the plant genome structure and regulation, molecular dissection of complex agricultural traits, and plant interactions with environment and pathogenic organisms. In plant genomics studies, Xiaofeng Cao’s group reported that REF6 uses four zinc fingers to directly recognize a CTCTGYTY motif, allowing genome-wide, site-specific demethylation of H3K27me3. These results identify a new targeting mechanism of an H3K27 demethylase to counteract Polycomb-mediated gene silencing (Cui et al., Nat Genet, 2016). Her team also applied genetics, transcriptomics, proteomics and biochemistry to show that AtPRMT5 modulates constitutive and alternative pre-mRNA splicing, uncovering a key process through which arginine methylation impacts diverse developmental processes (Deng et al., PNAS, 2016). Jiayang Li and colleagues proposed a regulatory framework for precision breeding with "genome-edited crops" (GECs) so that society can fully benefit from the latest advances in plant genetics and genomics, which showed pioneering influence in the application of genome-edited technology (Huang et al., Nat Genet, 2016). Jiayang Li’s group and collaborators successfully carried out efficient intron-mediated site-specific gene replacement through the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) pathway assisted by the CRISPR/Cas9 system, and these newly developed technology can be generally applied to molecular breeding and analysis of plant genes (Li et al., Nat Plants, 2016).
 
In functional genomics studies, Jiayang Li’s group identified a defective soluble starch synthase gene (SSIIIa) responsible for resistant starch (RS) production. This discovery holds great promise in improving cooking quality of rice especially in the indica varieties which are dominating in southern Asia (Zhou et al., PNAS, 2016). Yonghong Wang and Jiayang Li’s groups discovered a new molecular mechanism controlling shoot branching. They showed that the MKK7-MPK6 cascade phosphorylates Ser337 on PIN1, establishing a molecular link between the MAPK cascade and auxin-regulated plant development (Jia et al., PLoS Biol, 2016). Lihuang Zhu’s group and collaborators conducted integrated genetics and omics analyses in a model two-line rice hybrid system, Liang-you-pei 9 (LYP9) and its parents to identify multiple quantitative trait loci (QTLs) involved in yield heterosis, and proposed a common mechanism for yield heterosis in the present commercial hybrid rice (Li et al., PNAS, 2016). Chengcai Chu’s group analyzed a newly identified a dominant panicle enclosure mutant regulator of eui1 (ree1-D) to show that HOX12 acts directly through EUI1 to regulate panicle exsertion in rice (Gao et al., Plant Cell, 2016). Zhukuan Cheng’s group showed that P31comet is a functional synaptonemal complex (SC) protein and is essential for double-strand break (DSB) formation and SC installation in rice (Ji et al., PNAS, 2016). The same group and collaborators demonstrate that MS5 participates in progression of meiosis during early prophase I and that its allelic variants alter fertility in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.), which may provide a promising strategy for pollination control for heterosis breeding (Xin et al., Plant Cell, 2016). Chuanyou Li’s group and collaborators identified DA3 as a negative regulator of endoreduplication and showed that endoreduplication is linked to cell and organ growth via interaction of DA3 with key cell-cycle regulators (Xu et al., Plant Cell, 2016). Yuling Jiao’s group reported that the initiation of axillary meristems requires a meristematic cell population continuously expressing the meristem marker SHOOT MERISTEMLESS (STM), and proposed a threshold model for axillary meristem initiation (Shi et al., PLoS Genet, 2016).
 
In studying of plant-environment/pathogen interactions, Jian-Min Zhou’s group reported a novel serine protease from Pseudomonas syringae that specifically destroys a key immune co-receptor precisely following its activation, leading to enhanced virulence while avoiding detection by the plant surveillance system (Li e al., Cell Host Microbe, 2016). The same group demonstrated that heterotrimeric G proteins are directly coupled to an immune receptor kinase complex to regulate immune signaling through both pre-activation and post-activation mechanisms (Liang et al., eLife, 2016). Qi Xie’s group reported that the two major complexes involved in the ER-associated protein degradation (ERAD) system closely interact with each other, which is conserved between plants and mammals (Chen et al., Nat Plants, 2016).
 
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
Prof. Xiaofeng Cao was elected as a member to the Third World Academy of Sciences. Prof. Qi Xie was highlighted in Thomson Reuters China Citation Laureates. Prof. Chuanyou Li received a Leading Talent award from the Scientific and Technological Innovation Program.