Horticultural Sciences Department

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Koch Lab: Research

Research summary:

Our lab is perhaps best known for its research on sugar-responsive gene expression and the capacity for this process to alter form and function of plants. Sugar availability provides pivotal cues for adjustment of genes affecting C and N allocation in plants. Of all the nutrients and hormones involved, sucrose remains the “life blood” of plants. This sugar occupies a truly central position in vascular transport, carbon partitioning within the plant, and as a source of sugar signals for responsive genes.

Much of our work thus focuses on genes that affect sucrose metabolism, their contributions to sugar signaling, and overall impacts on partitioning of C-resources to different end products. Particular attention is being directed toward maize kernel development and mechanisms of sugar transfer. An emerging theme from these and other studies is the importance of metabolic micro-environments such as the high-sugar, low-oxygen interiors of kernel interiors and other diverse sucrose-importing sites.

Current projects center on control of carbon-partitioning and gene expression during the process of kernel growth from pollination to harvest. Genetic and genomic approaches are being used to dissect regulatory networks underlying this partitioning, and further, to begin defining their roles in domestication phenotypes as well as resistance to stresses such as heat, drought, and Striga (a parasitic plant that devastates maize yields in Africa).

In addition, our group continues to develop the UniformMu national public resource for transposon-induced maize mutants (with co-founder McCarty). Each mutant is tagged, sequence indexed, and seeds are supplied free of charge through MaizeGDB.org and the Maize Genetics Stock Center (hundreds of requests are filled each year, rate of use continues to rise).

All lab members participate in the continual learning essential to good science, mentoring, and public engagement. This extends from the widest possible breadth of foundational understanding, to the latest emerging results from other researchers, mentors, teachers, and public communicators. Every effort is made to insure a full-spectrum experience and contribution from each person in the group.

The research, teaching, and public outreach have been made possible by NSF, USDA-NIFA, and UF-IFAS.

Koch Lab publications
Koch Lab people