For more information about the Health and Society program, please contact the Program Director:
Dr. Joel Benington
220-D De La Roche Hall
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Peer-Reviewed Publications (Selected Publications. * indicates corresponding author)
Meeting Presentations (Recent Talks)
Living organisms constantly incorporate information/signals from surroundings in their survival strategies and to maximize reproductive success. My long-term interest is to understand how plants integrate environmental cues, including biotic and abiotic stresses, into the regulation of growth and development. One step toward this understanding is to answer the question: how do plants adjust growth and development by regulating pre-mRNA splicing in response to environmental signals?
Pre-mRNA splicing is a necessary regulation step in all eukaryotic cells. Using next generation sequencing (NGS), scientists have discovered an increasing number of splicing events that have not been documented before even in well-studied species. So far, my lab has found evidence that a splicing activator, SR45, is involved in plant growth and development and responds to cold/heat stress and sugar supplies (Plant Physiol. 150:1450-1458. 2009). Our work has shown that a single phosphorylation event on SR45 protein is directly affecting SR45 functions in a tissue specific manner (Plant Signaling & Behavior. 9:e29134. 2014). In addition, we also identified new associations between SR45 and 7 proteins, including
U5 snRNP components and SR proteins, using co-immunoprecipitation (Plant Signaling & Behavior. 9:e29134. 2014). In collaboration with a computer scientist, Dr. Padmini Srinivasan, from University Iowa and biologists in University of Maryland, we developed and field tested a literature scanning system for biologists: FERRET (BMC BIOINFORMATICS. 16:198. 2015). This paper has been accessed more than 4000 times in the first month of publication.
I am planning to extend the work above with the following three goals:
With the rapid development in NGS and proteomics, we attempt to answer the question how many of the SR45-regulated splicing events are biologically important at the protein level. With bioinformatics analysis, we recently discovered that SR45 may act as a suppressor of plant innate immunity by keeping a subset of defense genes in check. This opens up an exciting, yet unexplored research field to study how pre-RNA splicing mechanism regulate plant immunity. This will help shed light on the emerging roles of SR45 in splicing, gene silencing, abiotic stress response and others that yet to be revealed.
An interview by DNASTAR, a global bioinformatics software company, captures my research interests and current activities.
Undergraduate students who are interested in training opportunities in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry and/or bioinformatics are welcome to contact me for potential research experience.
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