Dr Xiaoqi Feng

Project Leader
Cell and Developmental Biology

Xiaoqi works on sexual reproduction in plants to understand how plant germ cells maintain their genetic integrity and maximise reproductive success.

Xiaoqi employs a combination of molecular, genomics and imaging approaches to investigate the influence of genetic and epigenetic factors on male sexual lineages.

Xiaoqi is interested in germ cells sensitivity and response to a plastic environment e.g. changing temperatures.

This research has implications for improving crop fertility and yield, and minimizing negative environmental impacts on crop production.

  • Genetic regulation of plant male sexual lineage development
  • Epigenetic reprogramming in plant germ cells
  • Temperature sensitivity in male germ cells


Most of our staple food comes from the product of flowering plant sexual reproduction, seeds. Therefore, a deeper understanding of this process is crucial for mankind.

Plant sexual reproduction is carried out by two highly specialized lines of cells, called the male and female sexual lineages. A fundamental but still unresolved question is how the reproductive function and fate are installed and maintained precisely in these cell lineages. The group work at the interface of developmental biology and epigenetics to answer this question, using Arabidopsis thaliana as a primary model of study.

Employing a combination of molecular, genetic, imaging, epigenetic and genomic approaches, they aim to dissect the mechanisms by which genetic and epigenetic factors shape the function and fate determination of the male sexual lineage. Revealing novel genetic and epigenetic regulators and their crosstalk is essential for our knowledge of sexual reproduction, and, at a more fundamental level, important for understanding how the development of a specific lineage of cells is tightly controlled in the context of a plastic environment of plant development. Their work has implications for improving crop fertility and yield, and minimizing negative environmental impacts on crop production.

The male sexual lineage serves as a good paradigm for the study of plant lineage development, and Arabidopsis is an ideal model for epigenetic studies as it importantly tolerates significant epigenetic abnormalities.

Dr Xiaoqi Feng's lab welcomes researchers interested in the genetic and epigenetic regulation of cell fate to join their group.  


Tel: 01603 450684

Breakthrough study reveals new insight into “immortal” plant cells

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Five new Project Leaders join the John Innes Centre

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Selected Publications

Feng X., Zilberman D., Dickinson H. (2013)

A conversation across generations: soma-germ cell crosstalk in plants.

Developmental Cell 24 (3) p215-25

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.devcel.2013.01.014

Ibarra C. A., Feng X., Schoft V. K., Hsieh T. F., Uzawa R., Rodrigues J. A., Zemach A., Chumak N., Machlicova A., Nishimura T., Rojas D., Fischer R. L., Tamaru H., Zilberman D. (2012)

Active DNA demethylation in plant companion cells reinforces transposon methylation in gametes.

Science 337 p1360-4

Publisher’s version: 10.1126/science.1224839

Recent Publications

Hsieh P. H., He S., Buttress T., Gao H., Couchman M., Fischer R. L., Zilberman D., Feng X. (2016)

Arabidopsis male sexual lineage exhibits more robust maintenance of CG methylation than somatic tissues.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113 p15132-15137

Publisher’s version: 10.1073/pnas.1619074114

Park K., Kim M. Y., Vickers M., Park J. S., Hyun Y., Okamoto T., Zilberman D., Fischer R. L., Feng X., Choi Y., Scholten S. (2016)

DNA demethylation is initiated in the central cells of Arabidopsis and rice.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113 p15138-15143

Publisher’s version: 10.1073/pnas.1619047114

Johnson K. C., Xia S., Feng X., Li X. (2015)

The Chromatin Remodeler SPLAYED Negatively Regulates SNC1-Mediated Immunity.

Plant Cell Physiology 10.1093 ppcv087

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/pcp/pcv087

Feng X., Dickinson H. G. (2010)

Tapetal cell fate, lineage and proliferation in the Arabidopsis anther.

Development 137 p2409-16

Publisher’s version: 10.1242/dev.049320

Feng X., Dickinson H. G. (2010)

Cell-cell interactions during patterning of the Arabidopsis anther.

Biochemical Society Transactions 38 p571-6

Publisher’s version: 10.1042/BST0380571

View All

Xiaoqi Feng


BBSRC David Phillips Fellow, 2014-19


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