Penn State Science
Nina V. Fedoroff

Nina V. Fedoroff

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Evan Pugh Professor of Biology, Willaman Professor of Life Science

219 Wartik
University Park, PA 16801


  1. Ph.D., The Rockefeller University, Molecular Biology , 1972
  2. B.S., Syracuse University (summa cum laude), 1966

Research Interests:

Plant Stress Response, Hormone Signaling, Transposable Elements, and Epigenetic Mechanisms

Plant Stress Response

A major project in the laboratory is investigating the responses of plants to biotic (pathogens) and abiotic (ozone, temperature, chemicals) stresses using DNA microarray gene expression profiling and reverse genetics. We have identified more than 1,200 stress-modulated Arabidopsis genes, and we are studying their expression under various conditions. Among the genes induced by various stresses are signaling genes, transcription factors, and effector genes that include enzymes that alter the cells structure and properties in response to stress. The signaling molecules include MAP kinases and receptor-like kinases. We are suppressing and overexpressing potential regulatory genes to identify the genes under their control. We want to understand the structure of the stress-response gene networks and to explore molecular-genetic approaches to modifying the stress response (see Holter et al., 2000, 2001).

Hormone Responses

The hyl1 Arabidopsis mutant has a transposon insertion mutation in a gene that is involved in several hormonal signaling pathways, including those for abscisic acid, auxin, and cytokinin. The mutant is affected in many growth parameters, including graviperception. It is not as sensitive to exogenous auxins and cytokinins as the wildtype, but it is hypersensitive to abscisic acid. The HYL1 protein binds to double-stranded RNA and localizes to the nucleus. The mutant is described in Lu and Fedoroff (2000). We are investigating how this protein affects hormone signaling.

Transposable Elements

Transposable elements or transposons were discovered in corn (maize) plants by the famous geneticist Barbara McClintock through classical genetic analysis of unstable mutations (for a brief history, see or Fedoroff 2001). Maize transposons were cloned in our laboratory almost 20 years ago and are now widely used for insertional mutagenesis. We have created a database of several hundred Arabidopsis transposon insertion lines using a transposon tagging system developed in the laboratory (Smith et al., 1996; Raina et al., 2001).

Epigenetic Mechanisms

The maize Suppressor-mutator (Spm) transposon is epigenetically inactivated by methylation and encodes a protein, TnpA, which is capable of reversing the inactivation (Schl├Ąppi et al., 1994; Fedoroff et al., 1995). Using an inducible promoter to express TnpA, current experiments seek to understand how TnpA demethylates the Spm promoter. Some ideas about plant transposon evolution are explored in Fedoroff (2000).


Selected Publications:

Racunas, S. A., N. H. Shah, I. Albert, and N. V. Fedoroff. 2004. HyBrow: A prototype system for computer-aided hypothesis evaluation. Bioinformatics 20: i257-i264.

Han, M.-H., S. Goud, L. Song, and N. Fedoroff. 2004. The Arabidopsis dsRNA-binding protein HYL1 plays a role in microRNA-mediated gene regulation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101: 1093-1098.

Zhang, S., S. Raina, H. Li, J. Li, H. Ma, H. Huang, and N. Fedoroff. 2003. Resources for targeted insertional and deletional mutagenesis in Arabidopsis. Plant Mol. Biol. 53: 133-150.

Shah, N. H., D. C. King, P. N. Shah, and N. V. Fedoroff. 2003. A tool-kit for cDNA microarray and promoter analysis. Bioinformatics 19: 1848.

Racunas, S. A., N. Shah, and N. V. Fedoroff. 2003. A contradiction-based framework for testing gene regulation hypotheses. In: IEEE Bioinformatics. Stanford University, Palo Alto, California: IEEE Computer Society.

Mahalingam, R., and N. Fedoroff. 2003. Stress response, cell death and signaling:  the many faces of ROS. Physiologia Plantarum 119: 56-68.

Mahalingam, R., A. N. Buitrago, N. Eckardt, N. Shah, A. Guevara-Garcia, P. Day, R. Raina, and N. Fedoroff. 2003. Charactarizing the stress/defense transcriptome of Arabidopsis. Genome Biology 4: R20.

Lu, C., M.-H. Han, A. Guevara-Garcia, and N. Fedoroff. 2002. Mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in post-germination arrest of development by abscisic acid. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99: 15812-15817.

Cui, H., and N. V. Fedoroff. 2002 Inducible DNA demethylation mediated by the maize Spm transposon-encoded TnpA protein. Plant Cell 14: 1-17.

Fedoroff, N. V. and W. Fontana. 2002. Small numbers of large molecules. Science 297: 1129-1130.


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