Rea has been working to understand long-term temperature sensing in plants, and in particular how plants integrate the variable temperature signals they receive to distinguish between seasons.
From previous work scientists know that the vernalisation machinery registers the experience of prolonged cold on the FLC locus through epigenetic marks.
Rea has developed a mathematical model of the vernalisation pathway that can predict FLC expression and chromatin dynamics in response to different temperatures. The model identified the steps of the pathway that are temperature-sensitive, finding the temperature signals that plants respond to most strongly and showed that almost every step in the pathway responds to temperature in some way.
She is now using this model to analyse data from various accessions of Arabidopsis, to gain insight into the differences in the mechanism of vernalization between them.
From data analysis of the vernalization response of different accessions, Rea and colleagues found that the largest differences in their behaviour was due to different FLC starting levels, rather than the epigenetic response.
Rea is now working on a separate project to understand how these initial levels are set up, combining mathematical modelling with microscopy and molecular biology techniques.
Antoniou-Kourounioti R. L., Hepworth J., Heckmann A., Duncan S., Qüesta J., Rosa S., Säll T., Holm S., Dean C., Howard M. (2018)Temperature sensing is distributed throughout the regulatory network that controls FLC epigenetic silencing in vernalizationCell Systems (7)Publisher's version: 2405-4712
Hepworth J., Antoniou-Kourounioti R. L., Bloomer R. H., Selga C., Berggren K., Cox D., Collier Harris B. R., Irwin J. A., Holm S., Säll T., Howard M., Dean C. (2018)Absence of warmth permits epigenetic memory of winter in Arabidopsis.Nature communications (9)Publisher's version: 2041-1723
Antoniou-Kourounioti R. L., Howard M. (2017)Quantitative Environmentally Triggered Switching Between Stable Epigenetic States