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Michael Axtell

Michael Axtell

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Professor of Biology

260 N. Frear
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814)867-0241
Lab Address: 259 N. Frear


  1. B.A., Biology, Ithaca College
  2. Ph.D., Plant Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Postdoc Training

  1. Whitehead Institute / Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003-2006

Honors and Awards

  1. Beckman Young Investigator, 2008-2011
  2. Searle Scholar, 2008-2011

Research Interests

We are biologists who use diverse plant species to study a class of genes that produce small RNAs. Small RNAs went largely undetected until around the turn of the century. We now know that they are critical components of gene expression in nearly all eukaryotic organisms. These small RNAs are functionally united in that they all function as sequence-specific repressors of other genes. Small RNAs are especially important for regulating the developmental programs of both animals and plants. Our research addresses fundamental unknowns of small RNA functions in plants including:

  • Annotation of small RNA genes using small RNA-seq data
  • How and to what ends have small RNA pathways diversified during land plant evolution?
  • What are the sequence requirements for effective small RNA-target interactions in plants?

We use genetics, molecular biology, and genomics to answer these questions.

Selected Publications

** For full publication list, see
- 2015 -
  • Comprehensive Annotation of Physcomitrella patens Small RNA Loci Reveals That the Heterochromatic Short Interfering RNA Pathway Is Largely Conserved in Land Plants. Coruh C, Cho SH, Shahid S, Liu Q, Wierzbicki A, Axtell MJ. Plant Cell doi: ​10.​1105/​tpc.​15.​00228 PMID: 26209555 PDF
- 2014 -
  • Analysis of complementarity requirements for plant microRNA targeting using a Nicotiana benthamiana quantitative transient assay. Liu Q, Wang F, Axtell MJ. Plant Cell. doi: 10.1105/tpc.113.120972 PMID: 24510721 PDF
- 2013 -
- 2012 -
  • miR156 and miR390 regulate tasiRNA accumulation and developmental timing in Physcomitrella patens. Cho SH, Coruh C, Axtell MJ. Plant Cell. doi: 10.1105/tpc.112.103176 PMID: 23263766 PDF
- 2010 -

  • Arabidopsis lyrata small RNAs: transient MIRNA and small interfering RNA loci within the Arabidopsis genus. Ma Z, Coruh C, Axtell MJ. Plant Cell. doi: 10.1105/tpc.110.073882 PMID: 20407023 PDF
- 2009-

  • Sliced microRNA targets and precise loop-first processing of MIR319 hairpins revealed by analysis of the Physcomitrella patens degradome. Addo-Quaye C, Snyder JA, Park YB, Li YF, Sunkar R, Axtell MJ. RNA doi: 10.1261/rna.1774909 PMID: 19850910 PDF
- 2008 -

  • Criteria for annotation of plant MicroRNAs. Meyers BC, Axtell MJ, Bartel B, Bartel DP, Baulcombe D, Bowman JL, Cao X, Carrington JC, Chen X, Green PJ, Griffiths-Jones S, Jacobsen SE, Mallory AC, Martienssen RA, Poethig RS, Qi Y, Vaucheret H, Voinnet O, Watanabe Y, Weigel D, Zhu JK. Plant Cell. doi: 10.1105/tpc.108.064311 PMID: 19074682 PDF
  • Endogenous siRNA and miRNA targets identified by sequencing of the Arabidopsis degradome. Addo-Quaye C, Eshoo TW, Bartel DP, Axtell MJ. Curr Biol.  doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.04.042 PMID: 18472421 PDF
  • Common functions for diverse small RNAs of land plants.
    Axtell MJ, Snyder JA, Bartel DP. Plant Cell doi: http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1105/​tpc.​107.​051706 PMID: 17601824 PDF