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Wenyan Xiao, Ph.D.


Courses Taught

Genetics, Plant Physiology, and Molecular Technique Lab


Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Research Interests

Xiao's laboratory studies the mechanism underlying epigenetic regulation of gene expression using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. DNA methylation is a covalent modification of DNA by addition of a methyl group to the 5-position of cytosine. This is a heritable epigenetic phenomenon that plays an important role in genome integrity, X chromosome inactivation, silencing of transposons, gene expression and imprinting. Xiao is employing genetic, molecular, genomic, and computational approaches to investigate how gene imprinting is controlled and how imprinted genes regulate development in the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Imprinting, occurring in both mammals and plants, results in gene alleles being expressed or silenced according to their parental origins, and plays an important role in reproductive strategies. In Arabidopsis, DNA methyltransferase1 (MET1), an ortholog of Dnmt1 in mammals, is responsible for maintaining genomic DNA methylation patterns. It has been shown that the MET1 DNA methyltransferase and DEMETER (DME) DNA demethylase antagonistically regulate gene imprinting and reproduction. Interestingly, DNA methylation also affects embryogenesis and seed size in Arabidopsis. Embryos with mutations in MET1 develop improperly, display altered planes and numbers of cell division, and have reduced viability. Furthermore, the maternal and paternal genomes play distinct roles in the regulation of seed size in plants. The current research is focused on elucidating the molecular mechanism of active DNA demethylation and dynamic changes of DNA methylation during growth and development.

Publications and Media Placements

Zhang, C., Hung, Y.-H., Rim, H. J., Zhang, D., Frost, J. M., Shin, H., Jang, H., Liu, F., Xiao, W., Lyer, L. M., Aravind, L., Zhang, X.-Q., Fischer, R. L., Huh, J. H., and Hsieh, T.-F. 2019. The catalytic core of DEMETER guides active DNA demethylation in Arabidopsis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116: 17563-17571.

Han, H., Bartels, A., Cheng, X., Meyer, A., An, Y.-Q. C., Hsieh, T.-F., and Xiao, W. 2019. Epigenetics regulates reproductive development in plants. Plants 8: 564.

Bartels, A., Han, Q., Nair, P., Stacey, L., Gaynier, H., Mosley, M., Huang, Q. Q, Pearson, J. K., Hsieh, T.-F., An, Y.-Q. C., and Xiao, W. 2018.Dynamic DNA methylation in plant growth and development. International Journal of Molecular Sciences19: 2144. DOI:10.3390.

Hung, Y.-H., Liu, F., Zhang, X.-Q., Xiao, W., and Hsieh, T.-F. 2018.Sexual and non-sexual reproduction: inheritance and stability of epigenetic variations and consequences for breeding applications, In: Advances in Botanical Research (ed. Mirouze, M., Bucher, E., and Gallusci, P.). Elsevier. 88: 117-163.

An, Y.-Q. C., Goettel, W., HanQ., Bartels, A., Liu, Z., and Xiao, W. 2017. Dynamic changes of genome-wide DNA methylation during soybean seed development. Scientific Reports 7: 12263. DOI:10.1038.

Braud, C., Zheng, W., and Xiao, W. 2014. Identification and analysis of LNO1-Like and AtGLE1-Like nucleoporins in plants. Plant Signaling & Behavior 8: e27376, PMID: 24384931,

Braud, C., Zheng, W., and Xiao, W. 2012. LONO1 encoding a nucleoporin is required for embryogenesis and seed viability in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology: doi: 10.1104/pp.112.202192.

Rea, M., Zheng, W., Chen, M., Braud, C., Bhangu, D., Rognan, T. N., and Xiao, W. 2012. Histone H1 affects gene imprinting and DNA methylation in Arabidopsis. The Plant Journal 71: 776-786. NIHMS373589.

Xiao, W.  2012.Specialized technologies for epigenetics in plants. In: Methods in Molecular Biology: Genomic Imprinting (ed. Engel, N.), Humana Press, New York. 925: 231-247.

Rea, M., Chen, M., Luan, S., Bhangu, D., Braud, C., Xiao, W. 2011. Determination of DNA methylation of imprinted genes in Arabidopsis endosperm. Journal of Visualized Experiments 47: doi: 10.3791/2327.

Xiao, W., Custard, K. D., Brown, R., C., Lemmon, B., E., Harada, J. J., Goldberg, R. B., and Fischer, R. L. 2006. DNA methylation is critical for Arabidopsis embryogenesis and seed viability. Plant Cell 18: 805-814.

Xiao, W., Brown, R., C., Lemmon, B., E., Harada, J. J., Goldberg, R. B., and Fischer, R. L. 2006. Regulation of seed size by hypomethylation of maternal and paternal genomes. Plant Physiology 142: 1160-1168.

Xiao, W., Gehring, M., Choi, Y., Margossian, L., Pu, H., Harada, J. J., Goldberg, R. B., Pennell, R. I., and Fischer, R. L. 2003. Imprinting of the MEA polycomb gene is controlled by antagonism between MET1 methyltransferase and DME glycosylase. Developmental Cell 5: 891-901.