Plants make a beautiful diversity of leaves, branches, stems, flowers, and other organs throughout their life. But if you plant two seeds from the same batch in different conditions, the plant that grows might have a very different number and arrangement of organs. That body plan flexibility is possible because plants maintain a population of pluripotent stem cells throughout the growing season. To make a leaf, a plant must coordinate the recruitment and growth of those initial stem cells as they transform into all the tissues required for photosynthesis. How does the plant do it??
The lab is broadly interested in the way that gene expression dynamics lead to changes in shape and size during development. We work at the scale of single cell morphology, all the way up to comparing the ways that different species produce complex shapes. Our efforts are mainly focused on the genetics that give maize, sorghum, and other grass leaves and infloresceneces their characteristic properties.