Mutant Arabidopsis plants defective in DNA methylation display severe developmental abnormalities (images from Zhang and Jacobsen, 2006).
The assembly of DNA and histones into chromatin is not only a highly effective means for packaging the vast amount of genetic materials in eukaryotes, but also provides the basis for a variety of important regulatory mechanisms. In plants, epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, histone modifications and certain aspects of RNA interference (RNAi), regulate gene expression by affecting the structural properties of the chromatin. A large body of work as greatly broadened our understanding of the genetic and biochemical basis of these epigenetic pathways. In addition, the large amounts of microarray and sequencing data produced in the past few years have made it possible to address questions regarding the genome-wide distribution patterns, functions as well as interactions among these epigenetic pathways.
Current research in the lab is directed to understand the establishment and maintenance of histone modifications in plants, their roles in regulating gene expression and development, and how they have contributed to the evolution of gene and genome functions. We use Arabidopsis and rice as model systems and employ a wide range of approaches, including genetic, molecular biology, biochemistry and genomic tools such as high-throughput sequencing and high-density tiling microarrays. Detailed research descriptions will be provided soon; meanwhile, please refer to our publication list for recent results.
Histone modifications, enzymes and binding proteins (downloaded from Dr. David Allis' website http://www.rockefeller.edu/labheads/allis/allis-lab.php)