The Dean lab focuses on how plants sense and remember winter.
A molecular genetic approach in Arabidopsis thaliana to address why some plants overwinter before flowering, how plants remember cold exposure, and how flowering mechanisms adapt to different winters has led to convergence onto the mechanistic dissection of chromatin and antisense RNA regulation of one gene, the floral repressor FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC).
The lab are currently focused on three questions:
- Quantitative variation in FLC expression – This influences whether a plant overwinters before flowering and is through an antisense-linked chromatin mechanism
- Epigenetic switching – Plants remember they have experienced winter in a process called vernalization. This is an epigenetic silencing of FLC expression through a cis-based, Polycomb switching mechanism
- Natural variation – Arabidopsis thaliana adaptation to different latitudes has involved noncoding polymorphisms within FLC that confer natural variation in flowering and vernalization response
The Dean lab interact closely with the group of Professor Martin Howard in Computational and Systems Biology at the John Innes Centre and combine mathematical modelling with our experimentation to gain full understanding of complex biological mechanisms.
Below are three selected reviews – all the primary papers are available via the links.
Berry S., Dean C. (2015)Environmental perception and epigenetic memory: mechanistic insight through FLC.Plant Journal (10.1111/tpj.12869)Publisher's version: 0960-7412
Whittaker C., Dean C. (2017)The FLC Locus: A Platform for Discoveries in Epigenetics and Adaptation.Annual review of cell and developmental biology (33)Publisher's version: 1081-0706
Wu Z., Fang X., Zhu D., Dean C. (2020)Autonomous pathway: FLOWERING LOCUS C repression through an antisense-mediated chromatin silencing pathwayPlant Physiology (182)
Postdoctoral Scientists interested in joining the lab are encouraged to send their CV to the Dean lab.