Xiaoqi works on epigenetic reprogramming in plant germlines.
Germ cells are “immortal” as they can be indefinitely transmitted through generations. A key regulator of their immortality is the genome-wide reprogramming of the chromatin state beyond the genetic (called ‘epigenetic’) code.
Understanding this reprogramming is a crucial aspect of germline biology. Conversely, germlines are also essential for understanding epigenetics because they mediate inheritance and uniquely undergo large-scale epigenetic changes.
Compared to animals, plant germlines differentiate much later and undergo distinct epigenetic changes despite highly conserved epigenetic pathways. These differences make plant germlines invaluable for revealing the core principles of epigenetics and sexual reproduction. Plant germlines are also of enormous practical significance because they produce the seeds that comprise most of our staple food.
Xiaoqi’s research aims to answer three interconnected questions regarding to plant germline epigenetics:
1) How do chromatin landscapes change during germline development and what are the underlying mechanisms?
2) What are the biological functions of these epigenetic changes?
3) How are environment-induced epigenetic memories transmitted and/or erased in germlines?
Through addressing these questions, she hopes to provide deep insights into epigenetic mechanisms and germline functions, and reveal how chromatin is developmentally regulated and in turn directs development.
Walker J., Gao H., Zhang J., Aldridge B., Vickers M., Higgins J., Feng X. (2018)Sexual-lineage-specific DNA methylation regulates meiosis in Arabidopsis.Nature Genetics (50)Publisher's version: 10.1038/s41588-017-0008-5
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)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)Publisher's version: 10.1073/pnas.1619047114