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Department of Biology

The Thompson Lab

Research Program

Plants produce organs throughout their life, and therefore exhibit indeterminate growth. Meristems, are groups of stem cells that produce these new organs. I am interested in the genetic regulation that controls meristem and organ fate in plants. In particular, I study the maize reproductive structure, the inflorescence, which is a great model because it has multiple meristem types with different developmental potentials.  The terminal meristem in the inflorescence is the floral meristem, which produces floral organs.  In maize, male and female flowers are found on separate inflorescences: the tassel produces male flowers, and the ear produces female flowers. To understand what genes control floral meristem, I study mutants in which floral development is perturbed.

One mutant I study is bearded-ear (bde), which was originally identified by the pioneering maize geneticist, Barbara McClintock. bde mutants make flowers with excess floral organs that are often abnormal. bde encodes a MADS-box transcription factor, a group of transcription factors with well-known roles in floral development, particularly in the model plant Arabidopsis. bde is most closely related to the MADS-box gene AGL6 in Arabidopsis, the function of which is not known.  Thus, bde provided the first insight into the function of AGL6-like genes in flower development. I am interested in identifying BDE interacting proteins and target genes, to gain a better understanding of how BDE functions in floral development.

I am also studying a second mutant, fuzzy tassel (fzt), which affects floral development, as well as other aspects of inflorescence development and vegetative development. I cloned fzt , and am now working on understanding how the fzt gene results in these phenotypes.

In addition, I am mapping several other mutants that affect floral development. Identifying the genes that underly their phenotypes will give new insight into the regulation of floral development in maize and in the grasses more generally.

I am looking for talented and motivated undergraduate and graduate students to join my lab. If you are interested in joining the Thompson lab, please contact me.

Courses taught

BIOL 2300: Principles of Genetics

BIOL 3260: Cell & Developmental Biology (w/ Dr. Dave Rudel)

BIOL 4230: Concepts in Cell Biology

BIOL 6130: Advances in Developmental Biology


Beth E. Thompson, Linnea Bartling, Clint Whipple, Darren H. Hall, Hajime Sakai, Robert Schmidt, and Sarah Hake (2009).  bearded-ear Encodes a MAD Box Transcription Factor Critical for Maize Floral Development.  Plant Cell 21, 2578-2590.

Nayoung Suh, Sarah L. Crittenden, Aaron Goldstrohm, Brad Hook, Beth Thompson, Marvin Wickens and Judith Kimble (2009).  FBF and Its Dual Control of gld-1 Expression in the Caenorhabditis elegans Germline.  Genetics 181, 1249-1260.

Beth E. Thompson and Sarah Hake (2009). Translational Biology: from Arabidopsis flowers to grass inflorescence architecture. Plant Physiology 149, 28-45.

Beth Thompson, Marvin Wickens, and Judith Kimble (2007). Translational control in development. In Translational Control in Biology and Medicine, (ed. M. B. Mathews N. Sonenberg and J. W. B. Hershey), pp. 507-544. Woodbury, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Beth E. Thompson, Liana B. Lamont, and Judith Kimble (2006). Germ-line induction of the Caenorhabditis elegans vulva. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 620-625.

Beth E. Thompson, David S. Bernstein, Jennifer L. Bachorik, Andrei G. Petcherski, Marvin Wickens, and Judith Kimble (2005). Dose-dependent control of proliferation and sperm specification by FOG-1/CPEB.  Development 132, 3471-3481.

Sarah L. Crittenden, Davis S. Bernstein, Jennifer L. Bachorik. Beth E. Thompson, Maria Gallegos, Andrei G. Petcherski, Gary Moulder, Robert Barstead, Marvin Wickens and Judith Kimble (2002). A conserved RNA-binding protein controls germline stem cells in Caenorhabditis elegans.  Nature 417, 630-633.

Bethany K. Zolman, Melanie Monroe-Augustus, Beth Thompson, John W. Hawes, Kristin A. Krukenberg, Seiichi P. T. Matsuda, and Bonnie Bartel (2001). chy1, an Arabidopsis Mutant with Impaired b-Oxidation, Is Defective in a Peroxisomal Hydroxyisobutyryl-CoA Hyrdrolase. Journal of Biological Chemistry 276, 31037-31046.


Laboratory Personnel

  Sterling Field, MS Student

  Caitlyn Johnson, MS Student

   Katherine Novitsky, MS Student

No Photo Available  Kate Nukunya, MS Student