Illustration of a plant growing on a computer chip purchased from Shutterstock.
Palo Alto, CA— New work led by Carnegie’s Zhiyong Wang untangles a complex cellular signaling process that’s underpins plants’ ability to balance expending energy on growth...
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Chlamydomonas photo courtesy of Natasha and Natalie Rothhausen.
Palo Alto, CA— New work led by Carnegie’s Petra Redekop, Emanuel Sanz-Luque, and Arthur Grossman probes the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which plants protect themselves from self-...
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Paulinella micrograph courtesy of Eva Nowack.
Palo Alto, CA— About 1.2 billion years ago a blue-green bacterium was engulfed by a more complex cell, transforming our planet and allowing a tremendous diversity of plant life to emerge and...
Explore this Story
Stylized image of a young Arabidopsis leaf by Flavia Bossi
Palo Alto, CA— Organisms grow to fit the space and resources available in their environments, leading to a vast diversity of body sizes and shapes within a population of the same species. What...
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The photosynthetic alga Chlamydomonas. Purchased from Shutterstock.
Palo Alto, CA— A team led by current and former Carnegie plant biologists has undertaken the largest ever functional genomic study of a photosynthetic organism. Their work, published in...
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3D projection of an Arabidopsis root tip. Credit: Dave Ehrhardt
Palo Alto, CA— In many ways, plants form the cornerstone of our society. They are key to the health of many ecosystems, underpin our entire food chain, provide us with fuel and medicine, and...
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Algae growing in a body of water, purchased from Shutterstock.
Palo Alto, CA— Algae have a superpower that helps them grow quickly and efficiently. New work led by Carnegie’s Adrien Burlacot lays the groundwork for transferring this ability to...
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Plant Physiology cover art
Palo Alto, CA— Plant science will be crucial for solving many of society’s most-pressing challenges—including climate change, food security, and sustainable energy—but what...
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Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga ...
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Matthew Evans wants to provide new tools for plant scientists to engineer better seeds for human needs. He focuses on one of the two phases to their life cycle. In the first phase, the sporophyte is the diploid generation—that is with two similar sets of chromosomes--that undergoes meiosis to...
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Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso joined the Department of Plant Biology as a staff associate in September 2019. He investigates whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with climate change by conducting large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments. He also...
Meet this Scientist
Zhiyong Wang was appointed acting director of Department of Plant Biology in 2018. Wang’s research aims to understand how plant growth is controlled by environmental and endogenous signals. Being sessile, plants respond environmental changes by altering their growth behavior. As such, plants...
Meet this Scientist
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Stanford, CA—Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert energy from the sunlight into chemical energy in the form of sugars. These sugars are used by plants to grow and function, as well...
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Determining how one species becomes distinct from another has been a subject of fascination dating back to Charles Darwin. New research led by Carnegie’s Matthew Evans and published in ...
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Audio Stanford, CA— Photosynthesis provides fixed carbon and energy for nearly all life on Earth, yet many aspects of this fascinating process remain mysterious. For example, little is known about...
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Explore Carnegie Science

Illustration of a plant growing on a computer chip purchased from Shutterstock.
June 13, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— New work led by Carnegie’s Zhiyong Wang untangles a complex cellular signaling process that’s underpins plants’ ability to balance expending energy on growth and defending themselves from pathogens. These findings, published in Nature Plants, show how plants use complex cellular circuits to process information and respond to threats and environmental conditions.  

“Plants don’t have brains like us, and they may be fixed in place and unable to flee from predators or pathogens, but don’t feel sorry for them, because they’ve evolved an incredible network of information-processing circuits that enable them to ‘

Chlamydomonas photo courtesy of Natasha and Natalie Rothhausen.
June 13, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— New work led by Carnegie’s Petra Redekop, Emanuel Sanz-Luque, and Arthur Grossman probes the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which plants protect themselves from self-harm. Their findings, published by Science Advances, improve our understanding of one of the most-important biochemical processes on Earth.  

Plants, algae, and certain bacteria are capable of converting the Sun’s energy into chemical energy through a process called photosynthesis. It underpins our entire food chain and is responsible for the oxygen-rich nature of our atmosphere.

“In other words, life as we know it couldn’t exist without photosynthesis,

Paulinella micrograph courtesy of Eva Nowack.
June 8, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— About 1.2 billion years ago a blue-green bacterium was engulfed by a more complex cell, transforming our planet and allowing a tremendous diversity of plant life to emerge and continue to evolve.

The engulfed cyanobacterium—sometimes called blue-green algae, because of its characteristic pigments —was capable of performing a process called photosynthesis, by which the Sun’s energy can be converted into chemical energy. At first, its relationship with the more-complex cell was symbiotic. It supplied the food and the other cell provided protection. Over time, however, much of the photosynthetic bacterium’s genetic material was transferred

Stylized image of a young Arabidopsis leaf by Flavia Bossi
June 7, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— Organisms grow to fit the space and resources available in their environments, leading to a vast diversity of body sizes and shapes within a population of the same species. What are the genetic and physiological mechanisms that determine how big an organism can grow?

In insects and mammals, the cellular and molecular factors underpinning body size are well established. But in plants, this process has puzzled scientists for generations. How a plant controls the size to which it grows is a fundamental part of its developmental processes and impacts its likelihood of success in a particular environment.

“It is crucially important to understand how

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Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now that many genomes from algae to mosses and trees are publicly available, this information can be mined using bioinformatics to build models to understand gene function and ultimately for designing plants for a wide spectrum of applications.

 Carnegie researchers have pioneered a genome-wide gene association network Aranet that can assign functions

Devaki Bhaya wants to understand how environmental stressors, such as light, nutrients, and viral attacks are sensed by and affect photosynthetic microorganisms. She is also interested in understanding the mechanisms behind microorganism movements, and how individuals in groups communicate, evolve, share resources. To these ends, she focuses on one-celled, aquatic cyanobacteria, in the lab with model organisms and with organisms in naturally occurring communities.

 Phototaxis is the ability of organisms to move directionally in response to a light source.  Many cyanobacteria exhibit phototaxis, both towards and away from light. The ability to move into optimal light

Plants are essential to life on Earth and provide us with food, fuel, clothing, and shelter.  Despite all this, we know very little about how they do what they do. Even for the best-studied species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana --a wild mustard studied in the lab--we know about less than 20% of what its genes do and how or why they do it. And understanding this evolution can help develop new crop strains to adapt to climate change.  

Sue Rhee wants to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying adaptive traits in plants to understand how these traits evolved. A bottleneck has been the limited understanding of the functions of most plant genes. Rhee’s group is

Zhiyong Wang was appointed acting director of Department of Plant Biology in 2018.

Wang’s research aims to understand how plant growth is controlled by environmental and endogenous signals. Being sessile, plants respond environmental changes by altering their growth behavior. As such, plants display high developmental plasticity and their growth is highly sensitive to environmental conditions. Plants have evolved many hormones that function as growth regulators, and growth is also responsive to the availability of nutrients and energy (photosynthates).

To understand how plant cells perceive and transduce various regulatory signals, and how combinations of complex

Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso joined the Department of Plant Biology as a staff associate in September 2019. He investigates whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with climate change by conducting large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments. He also develops computational methods to derive fundamental principles of evolution, such as how fast natural populations acquire new mutations and how past climates shaped continental-scale biodiversity patterns. His goal is to use these first principles and computational approaches to forecast evolutionary outcomes of populations under climate change to anticipate potential future