Two new HHMI-GBMF investigators
Congratulation to Simon Chan (from the Department of Plant Biology, but also a BMCDB faculty) and Jorge Dubcovsky (from the Department of Plant Sciences) for being two of the 15 first recipients of the collaborative Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (HHMI-GBMF) fellowship.
Simon Chan works on centromeres in the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. The centromere is required for proper chromosome segregation during cell division. To be able to compact DNA in a nucleus, DNA is wrapped around histone proteins and the centromere has it own variant: CENH3. By making a chrimeric CENH3, Simon Chan and his postdoc Ravi Maruthachalam (who won the Early Career Award of the American Society of Plant Biologists), was able to create a haploid genome of only 1 parent, eliminating the other parent’s genome. This seemingly odd result opens up many doors for plant breeders. To breed for your trait of interest you normally had to make a mutant and backcross multiple times to have an as pure as possible plant with your trait. With Chan and Ravi’s discovery, trait selection can now be cut down to a single cross. Now Chan’s lab is trying replicate this result in various other crop species. Furthermore, Chan’s lab is trying to understand how centromeres evolve. Despite that centromeres are essential for cell survival, its components are rapidly evolving. What role might this have in speciation?
Jorge Dubcovsky is wheat geneticist. He studies wheat at the gene level, but by doing so he has been able to reintroduce genes into wheat that were lost of centuries of cultivation. By doing so, he has been able to create a more nutrition wheat. Dubcovsky’s lab is investigating critical stages of the wheat plant’s developmental cycle, cloning genes involved in flowering initiation, spike development, and senescence. Dubcovsky plans to continue his road to improving wheat, as it is staple food for 20% of the world population.
Dubcovsky and Chan become the second and third UC Davis faculty to receive appointments with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The first was Associate Professor of Microbiology Neil Hunter, who was appointed as an HHMI Early Career Scientist in 2009.
Link to UC Davis news.
Link to GBMF news.