Current Research

I am interested in how, at the molecular level, plants respond to stress. In particular, I am interested in how the accessibility of the genome changes when a plant is faced with an environmental stress, such as heat stress. To study this I have been working on developing a technique in Arabidopsis thaliana that will allow me to assay the chromatin accessibility and then be able to see how it changes during periods of stress. I am also investigating how the plant specific de novo DNA methyltransferase, Domains Rearranged Methyltransferase-2 (DRM2), recognizes its target DNA sequence. DRM2 has a very similar structure to the mammalian de novo DNA methyltransferase DNMT3a, but the mammalian enzyme can only methylate cytosines in CG contexts while DRM2 can methylate cytosines in the CHH context, where H is any nucleotide besides G. I am interested in figuring out what specific domains and residues within DRM2 are important towards its methylation preference and if t modified, will it change DRM2’s methylation substrate specificity.