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Vendredi 24 Novembre 2017
De 12h30 à 13h30
Centre de Recherche - Paris - Amphithéâtre Antoine Lacassagne

Small interfering RNA in replication, recombination and repair

Rob Martienssen is investigating the role of heterochromatin reprogramming and RNA interference in plant germ cells. These mechanisms reveal and regulate transposable elements, but they also play important roles in meiosis and reproductive fate.


Pr Robert A. Martienssen
HHMI investigator - Head of genomics and plant Genetics

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York - USA


Training Unit
Cellule enseignement

Institut Curie

Invité(e)(s) par

Irena Draskovic Scientific Organizers
Institut Pasteur

Institut Curie


Training Unit

Institut Curie

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Robert Martienssen, a pioneer in the study of epigenetics, investigates mechanisms involved in gene regulation and stem cell fate in yeast and model plants including Arabidopsis and maize. He and his colleagues have shed light on a phenomenon called position-effect variegation, caused by inactivation of a gene positioned near densely packed chromosomal material called heterochromatin. They have discovered that small RNA molecules arising from repeating genetic sequences program that heterochromatin. Martienssen and colleagues have described a remarkable process by which “companion cells” to sperm in plant pollen grains provide them with instructions that protect sperm DNA from transposon damage. They found that some of these instructions, or epigenetic marks, could be inherited in the next generation. With collaborators in Mexico, Martienssen has also coaxed Arabidopsis, a flowering plant, to produce egg cells without meiosis, an important step toward a long-time goal of plant breeding: generating clonal offspring to perpetuate hybrid vigor. The lab has also shown that when RNA polymerase II has transcribed a stretch of DNA, the RNA interference mechanism causes the enzyme to release its hold on the DNA and fall away. This allows the replication fork to progress smoothly and the DNA strands to be copied; histone-modifying proteins, which follow right along, establish heterochromatin. Martienssen’s group also continues to work on problems related to the creation of plant-based biofuels. This year, as part of a collaborative project to generate a high-quality full genome map of the oil palm plant, Martienssen and his colleagues identified a single gene that controls the yield of oil palm trees. This discovery will increase yields and should lessen the environmental burden of oil palm production, which often threatens already endangered rainforest lands.