Understanding how plants grow can lead to improving crops. Plant scientist Kathryn Barton, who joined Carnegie in 2001, investigates just that: what controls the plant’s body plan, from the time it’s an embryo to its adult leaves. These processes include how plant parts form different orientations, from top to bottom, and different poles. She looks at regulation by small RNA’s, the function of small so-called Zipper proteins, and how hormone biosynthesis and response controls the plant’s growth.
Despite an enormous variety in leaf shape and arrangement, the basic body plan of plants is about the same: stems and leaves alternate in repeating units. The structure responsible for generating the aboveground portions of the plant, called the shoot apical meristem, is a dynamic but poorly understood cluster of cells located at the very tip of a shoot, at the bud. Barton and colleagues use Arabidopsis plants defective in shoot meristem function to explore the structure and function of this important plant component.
Barton’s meristem studies promise to illuminate one of the most intractable problems in plant developmental biology. And, since rules of plant patterning apply to all plants, her work may lead eventually to the design of useful plants for the future. Barton received her B.S. in molecular biology and her Ph. D. in genetics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She was then awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to the University of Wisconsin as an associate professor of genetics. Learn more at https://dpb.carnegiescience.edu/labs/barton-lab