Dr. Mary Gehring is a member of the Whitehead Institute and an Assistant Professor of Biology at MIT.
Research Summary: DNA methylation is a heritable epigenetic mark important for genome stability, gene imprinting and transposable element silencing in diverse eukaryotes. During reproductive development in plants, the DNA methylation landscape is dramatically altered in one of the female gametes. Short transposable elements are actively demethylated. Since the expression of some genes is tied to the epigenetic status of nearby transposable elements, the resultant epigenetic asymmetry between maternal and paternal alleles can create imprinted gene expression in the seed after fertilization. Through whole-genome methylation and expression profiling, the Gehring lab is using natural genetic and epigenetic variation within the Arabidopsis thaliana species to test the hypothesis that transposable elements drive genomic imprinting and to identify imprinted genes that may underlie various seed traits.