Kelly Dawe
Distinguished Research Professor
Plant Sciences, Rm 4613
Phone Number:  706-542-1658
Office/Lab:  Plant Sciences, Rm 4608
Phone Number: 

Ph.D. Genetics, U.C Berkeley 1989

M.S. Botany, Univ. of California, Riverside 1985

B.S. Landscape Horticulture, Colorado State University 1983

Research Projects: 

What are plant centromeres made of? How are they inherited, what proteins interact with them, and how do they evolve? What are centromeres? For over twelve years our lab has been working through the answers to these questions.lab was founded with the goal of understanding plant kinetochores. We have made good progress mostly by making specific antisera and combining the power of maize cytogenetics with 3D light microscopy. Much of our effort has focused on the inner kinetochore proteins Centromeric Histone H3 (CENH3) and Centromere Protein C (CENP-C), as well as MAD2, a spindle checkpoint protein that localizes to the outer kinetochore. We have worked on a serine-50 phosphorylated form of CENH3, NDC80, and several other kinetochore proteins.

Our long-term goal is to identify the complete collection of inner kinetochore proteins, and to develop a model for how these proteins are organized. We intend to pursue the tried-and-true method of identifying candidate inner kinetochore proteins by homology to animal and yeast counterparts. Co-immunoprecipitation will be an important strategy for demonstrating interactions with other proteins, DNA, and RNA. We are also working on Arabidopsis and novel microscopy-based methods to further this work.

High-resolution microscopy, anti-kinetochore antisera, and maize cytology/genetics will continue to be major assets in our work.

Grant Support: 
  • NSF Cause and consequences of maize neocentromere activity. Dawe (PI) 03/15/2010-03/14/2013. $539,857
  • NSF GEPR: Functional Genomics of Maize Centromeres. Dawe (PI) 06/15/2010-06/14/2015. $1,377,519 to Dawe, and leading four Co-PIs; total award size: $5,014,464
  • NSF "Maize Transposable Elements: Discovery, Description and functional characterization" (Susan Wessler, PI and 4 co-PIs) 9/1/06-8/30/11 Total 4,107,621; $526,606 to Dawe lab
  • "Functional Genomics of Maize Centromeres" (Dawe, PI, and four Co-PIs: J. Jiang, J. Birchler, W. Parrott, and G. Presting). 9/1/04-8/31/09. Total $5,602,925; $1,704,433 to Dawe lab.
  • "Functional Genomics of maize chromatin" (Karen Cone, PI and 7 Co-PIs including Dawe). 9/1/04-8/31/08. Total $6,644,642; $425,035 to Dawe lab
Of Note: 
  • Creative Research Medal
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Selected Publications: 
  • Wang, K., Wu, Y., Zhang, W., Dawe, R.K., and Jiang, J. 2014. Maize centromeres expand and adopt a uniform size in the genetic background of oat. Genome Res. Oct. 7
  • Sheehan, M.J., Dawe, R.K., and Pawlowski,W.P. 2013. Live imaging of chromosome dynamics. Methods Mol Biol. 990:79-92
  • Kanizay, L.B., Albert, P.S., Birchler, J.A. and Dawe, R.K. 2013. Intragenomic conflict between the two major knob repeats of maize. Genetics 194:81-89
  • Kanizay, L.B., Pyhäjärvi, T., Lowry, L.G., Hufford, M.B., Peterson, D.G., Jeffrey Ross- Ibarra, J., and Dawe, R.K. 2013. Diversity and abundance of the Abnormal chromosome 10 meiotic drive complex in Zea mays. Heredity 110:570-577.
  • Gent, J.I., Ellis, N.A., Guo, L., Harkess, A.E., Yao, Y., Zhang, X., and Dawe, R.K. 2013. CHH islands: de novo DNA methylation in near-gene chromatin regulation in maize. Genome Res. 23:628-37
  • Gent, J.I., Dawe, R.K. 2012. RNA as a structural and regulatory component of the centromere. Ann Rev. Genet. 46: 443-453
  • Li, X., Topp, C.N., and Dawe, R.K. 2012. Maize Antibody Procedures: Immunolocalization and Chromatin Immunoprecipitation. In “Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models, 4 (Eds. Bass, H.W. and Birchler, J.A.), Springer Verlag. p. 271-286.
  • Ghaffari, R., Cannon, E.K.S, Kanizay, L.B., Lawrence, C.J., and Dawe R.K. 2012. Maize chromosomal knobs are located in gene-dense areas and suppress local recombination. Chromosoma 122:67-75
  • Burgos-Rivera, B., and Dawe, R.K. 2012. An Arabidopsis tissue-specific RNAi method for studying genes essential to mitosis. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51388
  • Eichten, S.R., Ellis, N.A., Makarevitch, I., Yeh C-T., Gent J.I., Guo, L., McGinnis, K.M., Zhang, X., Schnable, P.S., Vaughn, M.W., Dawe, R.K., and Springer, N.M. 2012. Spreading of heterochromatin from maize retrotransposons. PLoS Genet. 8(12): e1003127
  • Fang, Z., Pyhäjärvi, T., Weber. A.L., Dawe, R.K., Glaubitz, J.C., de Jesus Sánchez- González, J., Ross-Ibarra, C., Doebley, J., Morrell, P., Ross-Ibarra, J. 2012. Megabase- scale inversion polymorphism in the wild ancestor of maize. Genetics 191, 883-894
  • Zhang, H., and Dawe, R.K. 2012. Total centromere size and genome size are strongly correlated in ten grass species. Chrom. Res. 20, 403-412
  • Zhang, H., Phan, B., Wang, K., Artelt, B.A., Jiang, J., Parrott, W.A., and Dawe, R.K. 2012. Stable integration of an engineered megabase repeat array into the maize genome. Plant J. 70, 357-365.
  • Gent, J.I., Dong Y., Jiang J., and Dawe R.K. 2012. Strong epigenetic similarity between maize centromeric and pericentromeric regions at the level of small RNAs, DNA methylation, and H3 chromatin modifications. Nucleic Acids Res. 40, 1550-1560. 
  • Zhang, H, and Dawe, R. K. 2011. Mechanisms of plant spindle formation. Chrom. Res. In press
  • Gent, J.I., Schneider, K.L., Topp, C.N., Rodriguez, C., Presting, G.C., and Dawe, R.K. 2011. Distinct influences of tandem repeats and retrotransposons on CENH3 nucleosome positioning. Epigenetics & Chromatin. February 25, 4:3.
  • Shi, J., Wolf, S.E., Burke, J.M., Presting, G.G., Ross-Ibarra, J., and Dawe, R.K. 2010. Widespread gene conversion in centromere cores. PLoS Biol. 8, e1000327 (and associated commentary article by Talbert and Henikoff and Nature Highlight
  • Du, Y., Topp, C.N., and Dawe, R.K. 2010. DNA binding of Centromere Protein C (CENPC) is stabilized by single stranded RNA. PLoS Genet. 6, e1000835.
  • Schnable, P.S., 155 other authors including Dawe, Wilson, R.K. 2009. The B73 maize genome: complexity, diversity and dynamics. Science 326, 1112-1115
  • Wolfgruber, T.K, Sharma, A., Schneider, K.L., Albert, P.S., Koo, D-H., Shi, J., Zhi Gao, Z., Han, F., Lee, H., Xu, R., Allison, J., Birchler, J.A., Jiang, J., Dawe, R.K, Presting, G.G. 2009. Maize centromere structure and evolution: sequence 3 analysis of centromeres 2 and 5 reveals dynamic loci 4 shaped primarily by retrotransposons. PLoS Genet. Nov. 5(11) e1000743
  • Li, X., and Dawe, R.K. Fused sister kinetochores initiate the reductional division of meiosis I. 2009. Nature Cell Biol. 11, 1103-1108
  • Kanizay, L., and Dawe, R.K. 2009. Centromeres: long intergenic spaces with adaptive features. Functional Integrative Genomics. 9:287-92
  • Topp, C.N., Okagaki, R.J., Melo, J.R., Kynast, R.G., Phillips, R.L., Dawe, R.K. 2009. Identification of a maize neocentromere in an oat-maize addition line. Cytogenet. Genome Res. 9:647–653