Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Benfey, Philip
Location Duke University
Primary Field Plant Biology
 Election Citation
Benfey has defined how various cell types within plant roots develop and differentiate. By applying diverse tools at a range of scales, he formulated an integrated systems view of root development.
 Research Interests
The goal of my research program is to understand how organs develop. Most of our work uses the root of Arabidopsis as a tractable model system. We initially used molecular genetic approaches to identify a set of genes that are key regulators of the radial organization of the root. One of these regulators is a transcription factor that physically moves from its site of synthesis in the internal vascular tissue to its site of activity in the adjacent tissues. There it interacts with another transcription factor to turn on a suite of target genes including a component of the cell cycle machinery, which controls a critical asymmetric cell division. We have exploited the simple organization of the root to generate the most comprehensive genome-wide RNA expression map of an organ for any species. We have shown that the response to abiotic stresses is frequently highly cell-specific. Most recently, we identified a clock-like process that generates a wave of gene expression in the root tip and determines the competence to form branch roots.

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