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Hong Ma

Hong Ma

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Professor of Biology

Huck Distinguished Research Professor of Plant Molecular Biology

328B Mueller Lab
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 865-5343
Lab Address: 419 Mueller Lab


  1. Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988
  2. B.A., Temple University, 1983

Postdoc Training

  1. California Institute of Technology, 1988-1990

Honors and Awards

  1. Faculty Scholars Medal in Life and Health Sciences, 2005
  2. Guggenheim Fellowship 2004-2005
  3. American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award 1994-1997

Research Interests

Flower Development and its Evolution; Meiosis and Pollen Development

I have a long standing interest in the molecular basis of plant reproductive development and continue to conduct active research at Fudan University, and collaborate with several Penn State professors. We approach this topic largely with molecular and genetic tools. In flowering plants, reproductive development encompasses a range of stages from floral meristem formation to fertilization.

One of our research emphases is the analysis of regulatory genes controlling early flower development using both mutants and transgenic plants carrying altered genes. Some of these genes encode putative transcription factors. In particular, we are interested in understanding the function of the AGAMOUS gene at the molecular level. In addition, we are studying a family of genes (called ASK genes) that may regulate protein turnover during development. One of them, ASK1, regulates both vegetative and flower development. We recently have begun to examine flower development from an evolutionary perspective, in collaboration with Claude dePamphilis and others.

A second focus in our lab is aimed at understanding genes important for male meiosis and pollen development. Meiosis is an important reproductive process in eukaryotes. We have discovered several new genes important for Arabidopsis meiosis. Although these genes share sequence similarity with genes in other eukaryotes, their functions in meiosis were not previously revealed. Therefore, we may have discovered novel regulators of meiosis. We are very excited about the opportunities to study meiotic genes using genetic and molecular tools, as well as cytological approaches. We also are interested in signal transduction and G protein function in plant development. We previously isolated genes encoding putative alpha and beta subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins. We are particularly interested in their potential roles during reproductive development.

Selected Publications

Quan, L., R. Xiao, W. Li, S.-A. Oh, J. C. Ambrose, R. Cyr, D. Twell, and H. Ma. 2008. Functionally divergence of the duplicated Arabidopsis AtKIN14a and AtKIN14b genes: Critical roles in meiosis and gametophyte development. The Plant Journal 53(6): 1013-1026.

Chen, C., W. Zhang, L. Timofejeva, Y. Gerardin, and H. Ma. 2005. The Arabidopsis ROCK-N-ROLLERS gene encodes a homolog of the yeast ATP-dependent DNA helicase MER3 and is required for normal meiotic crossover formation. The Plant Journal 43(3): 321-334.

Kong, H.-Z., J. Leebens-Mack, W. Ni, C. W. dePamphilis, and H. Ma. 2004. Highly heterogeneous rates of evolution in the SKP1 gene family in animals and plants: Functional and evolutionary implications. Mol. Biol. Evol. 21(1): 117-128.

Hu, W., Y. Wang, C. Bowers, and H. Ma. 2003. Isolation, sequence analysis, and expression studies of florally expressed genes in Arabidopsis. Plant Mol. Biol. 53: 545-563.