Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, May 2017

Jennifer Wisecaver, featured first author of A Global Co-expression Network Approach for Connecting Genes to Specialized Metabolic Pathways in Plants

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University.

Education: PhD (2012) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona. BS (2007) Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University.

Non-scientific Interests: Spending time with family, friends, and my dogs. Watching TV, reading, day hikes, car camping, national parks, and the Pacific Ocean.

My research focuses on gene innovation – the origination of new genes in lineages through diverse mechanisms, such as gene duplication and horizontal gene transfer – as a process that facilitates the rapid evolution of novel traits. The traits that I focus on – specialized metabolic pathways – represent the business end of many ecological interactions. For example, in plants, many specialized pathways produce toxic compounds to ward off grazers and pathogens. Other examples come from marine algae, which I studied as a graduate student and which have specialized metabolic pathways for acquiring limited nutrients in the oligotrophic waters of the open ocean. The diversity of specialized metabolic pathways is astounding, and with these myriad pathways comes myriad human applications: antibiotics, pesticides, dyes, etc. Yet, because of their fast-evolving nature, nearly all of these pathways are unresolved at the genetic level, hampering our ability to draw general conclusions about their evolution or practically apply them in medicine, agriculture, and other biotechnologies. This methodological bottleneck drove me to develop a high-throughput approach (presented in this issue of The Plant Cell) to identify the genes that form specialized metabolic pathways using gene co-expression networks. I will be starting my own lab at Purdue University in the Fall (2017), where I will work to characterize new specialized pathways and understand how these pathways arise and diversify over time.

Jun Sung Seo, featured first author of ELF18-INDUCED LONG NONCODING RNA associates with Mediator to enhance expression of innate immune response genes in Arabidopsis

Current Position: Research Fellow in TEMASEK Life Science Lab (Chua Nam-Hai Lab), Singapore.

Education: BS in Agricultural Chemistry and PhD in Agricultural Biotechnology at Seoul National University, Korea.

Non-scientific Interests: Swimming, watching movies, and photography.

I started my research career at Seoul National University, Korea when I was undergraduate student. Our lab (Dr. Yang Do Choi) was interested in jasmonate signaling in Arabidopsis. During my Ph.D., I studied the promoters of Arabidopsis JMT (JA methyl transferase) and its Brassica homologue NTR1 to understand JMT function in jasmonate signaling. I found a novel cis-element responding to jasmonate in both genes’ promoters and also trans-acting factors. After finishing the Ph.D. course, I moved to Dr. Nam-Hai Chua’s lab at Rockefeller University and started studying the functions of lncRNAs in Arabidopsis. Dr. Chua’s lab screened the lncRNAs responding to various treatments. I focused on ELENA1, one of the lncRNA responding to elf18, to characterize its function in plant immune response against pathogen attack. Last year, I moved to Dr. Nam-Hai Chua’s lab at TEMASEK Life Science Lab, Singapore. Now I am working with other ELENAs and further studying ELENA1.

Kristoffer Jonsson, featured first author of Ethylene Regulates differential growth via BIG ARF-GEF-dependent post-Golgi secretory trafficking in Arabidopsis

Current Position: Phd student at Ume å Plant Science Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden.

Education: B.S in Molecular Biology at Umeå University. M.S in Plant and Forest Biotechnology, Umeå University.

Non-scientific Interests: Spending time with my son, playing music, enjoying the outdoors, ice hockey statistics, world politics, baking.

As with many things in my life, I stumbled onto biology. I find most facets of life fascinating, from the arts, humanities to social and natural sciences, and could have chosen either direction. However, in biology I have, like countless people before me, come face to face with the big questions, those concerning life itself. As a PhD student in the lab of Prof. Rishi Bhalerao I have been studying intracellular trafficking processes, and their connection to the developmental output of the apical hook. I am deeply intrigued by how organisms, starting from a single cell with a set blueprint, their genome, obtain their myriad shapes in a precisely regulated manner. I hope to continue being a part of the scientific community piecing together the puzzle of life.