Prof Caroline Dean

Project Leader
Cell and Developmental Biology

March 2015 - BBSRC Excellence in Bioscience Award Lecture

Our research has focused on the timing of the transition to reproductive development in plants. The acceleration of flowering by prolonged cold is a classic epigenetic process called vernalization. The study of this and parallel genetic pathways has led us into the dissection of conserved chromatin silencing mechanisms involving non-coding RNAs.

Our recent work has focused on a mechanistic understanding of vernalization and on the pathways that determine a requirement for vernalization. These pathways converge on a gene that encodes a floral repressor called FLC.  We analyse how these pathways intersect during development, in different environmental conditions, and through microevolution. This takes us into the analysis of what regulates reproductive strategy in plants.  This forms part of the GEN ISP Theme 3: understanding how temperature signals integrate into regulatory networks controlling development. We use Arabidopsis as a reference to establish the regulatory hierarchy and then translate our findings into other species, particularly Brassica species.

FLC regulation has become a paradigm for the dissection of how non-coding RNAs, particularly antisense transcripts, mediate chromatin regulation. This work is therefore central to the GEN ISP Theme 1 - which aims to understand how genomes are regulated. It is also providing important insight into evolutionary mechanisms, as modulation of FLC regulation is an important determinant of Arabidopsis adaptation.

JIC scientists remove reliance on seasonality in new line of broccoli – potentially doubling crop production

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A step closer to understanding the ‘switch’ that triggers flowering in plants

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Professor Caroline Dean awarded the Darwin Medal by the Royal Society

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John Innes Centre scientist made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire

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Recent Publications

Rosa S., Duncan S., Dean C. (2016)

Mutually exclusive sense–antisense transcription at FLC facilitates environmentally induced gene repression

Nature Communications 7 p13031

Publisher’s version: 10.1038/ncomms13031

Hawkes E. J., Hennelley S. P., Novikova I. V., Irwin J. A., Dean C., Sanbonmatsu K. Y. (2016)

COOLAIR Antisense RNAs Form Evolutionarily Conserved Elaborate Secondary Structures

Cell Reports 16 p3087-3096

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.045

Duncan S., Olsson T., Hartley M., Dean C., Rosa S. (2016)

A method for detecting single mRNA molecules in Arabidopsis thaliana

Plant Methods 12 p13

Publisher’s version: 10.1186/s13007-016-0114-x

Yang H., Howard M., Dean C. (2016)

Physical coupling of activation and derepression activities to maintain an active transcriptional state at FLC.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113 p9369-74

Publisher’s version: 10.1073/pnas.1605733113

Irwin J. A., Soumpourou E., Lister C., Ligthart J. D., Kennedy S., Dean C. (2016)

Nucleotide polymorphism affecting FLC expression underpins heading date variation in horticultural brassicas.

Plant Journal N/A pN/A

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/tpj.13221

View All

Caroline Dean

  • Dr Hongchun Yang Research Assistant
  • Dr Rebecca Bloomer Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Joanna Hepworth Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Philip Woolf Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Ms Shuqin Chen Lab Attendant
  • Dr Yusheng Zhao Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Julia Questa Postdoctoral Training Fellow
  • Dr Congyao Xu Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Ms Jade Doughty Postgraduate Student
  • Emily Hawkes Postgraduate Student
  • Eleri Tudor Postgraduate Student
  • Dr Rea Antoniou-Kourounioti Postdoctoral Scientist


Made Dame Cammander of the British Empire (CBE) Queen's Birthday Honours List 2016

FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award, 2015

Thomson Reuters Top 1% Highly Cited Researcher, 2014

BBSRC Anniversary Award for Excellence in Bioscience, 2014

Non-resident Faculty of the Salk Institute, 2012-18

Foreign Member US National Academy of Sciences, elected April 2008

German Leopoldina Academy, elected April 2008

Officer of the Order of the British Empire, 2004

Fellow of the Royal Society, elected 2004

Genetics Society Medal, 2002

Elected a European Molecular Biology Organisation Fellow, 1999


For media enquiries, please contact the JIC communications team 01603 450962,


March 2015 - BBSRC Excellence in Bioscience Award Lecture

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