• The Chen Lab

Plant Photoreceptor Signaling and Nuclear Organization

Plant development is extremely plastic in response to environmental cues, such as temperature and light. Changes in quality, intensity, and periodicity of light by either the local environment or seasonal time are instructive signals that control almost all aspects of plant development and growth. Our laboratory uses Arabidopsis thaliana, an ideal genetic model species, and a combination of molecular genetics, cell biology, genomics, and biochemistry to investigate how plant development and growth respond to environmental light cues. In particular, our research focuses on elucidating molecular mechanisms by which photoreceptor signaling orchestrates gene expression through reorganization of the nuclear architecture. These include the biogenesis of the photobody, a photoreceptor-containing, light sensory subnuclear domain, and the spatial positioning of light responsive genes. Our molecular genetic studies of the photobody have identified novel light signaling mechanisms. The discovery of the repositioning of light responsive genes forges a connection between the positioning and activity of individual genes in plants. These breakthroughs have opened new avenues to understanding mechanisms of plant light signaling as well as evolutionarily conserved principles of nuclear organization in transcriptional regulation.