In the Field
In the Dawe lab, we utilize the model organisms Arabidopsis and Maize.
Maize (Zea mays L.) is not only an important cash crop in the Americas, but it also has a long history as a model organism for cytology and genetic research. Maize is a member of the Poacea family. It has 10 pairs of chromosomes that are large, and thus easy to study with microscopy. The natural separation of male and female reproductive organs in maize, and the large number of progeny (seed) produced by one cross, make performing controlled genetic experiments particularly easy and fruitful. Additionally, there are a large number of public resources available to maize researchers including, mutant lines, mapping populations, molecular markers, and a genome sequence. In addition to the vast public resources for maize our lab has developed several antibodies and fluorescent DNA probes to facilitate our research on maize centromeres and neocentromeres.
Arabidopsis has become an excellent model organism to study centromeric and kinetochore proteins. It has a short life cycle, prolific seed production, and it is remarkably easy to transform. The Arabidopsis genome is annotated and available online. This allows us to use bionformatics and genomics to search for kinetochore and centromeric gene homologues in plants. There is a vast collection of protocols available for almost every molecular technique used in most labs, in addition to the powerful genetic tools that have been developed in the last two decades. More recently, cytogenetic tools have been worked out, making it possible to study genes involved in cell division such as the ones we study in our lab.