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

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Cutler, Sean
Location University of California, Riverside
Primary Field Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences
 Election Citation
Cutler pioneered the use of chemical genetics in plants for gene discovery and plant growth manipulation. His creative experiments led to the identification of the elusive receptor for the plant hormone ABA and detailed understanding of receptor function. Cutler's research will enable the development of new drought-tolerant crops.
 Research Interests
Sean Cutler's laboratory is interested in understanding and manipulating plant responses to drought. His laboratory uses a combination of chemical, biochemical, and genetic approaches to dissect the mechanism of action of a plant drought stress-signaling molecule abscisic acid (ABA). ABA levels rise after drought stress and it acts to induce protective responses. When he started his lab in 2002 a long-standing unresolved question was: how is ABA perceived? Previous attempts to answer this question using mutational analysis had turned up empty-handed; we now know that this was due to the extensive genetic redundancy of the ABA perception machinery. His laboratory took a chemical genetic approach and identified a synthetic ABA mimic called pyrabactin that selectively activated a subset of ABA responses. His group then used pyrabactin as a reagent to isolate an ABA receptor called Pyrabactin Resistance 1, which was a pivotal step in the path to our current understanding of plant signal transduction. His lab has since developed synthetic ABA mimics that are being explored as tools for mitigating the effects of drought stress. Recently, his laboratory has been developing synthetic biology tools to enable programming of chemically controlled traits in crops.

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