Matthew Willman
Year: 2015
Faculty Advisor: Wojciech Pawlowski

Understanding the role of a meiosis-specific long intergenic noncoding RNA in Arabidopsis thaliana

Project Summary

Meiosis is a complex process in which a diploid mother cell divides into four non-identical haploid daughter cells. While many meiotic proteins have been characterized, the regulation of meiotic processes such as homologous chromosome pairing, synapsis, and recombination is poorly understood. We hypothesize that long intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNAs) play a role meiotic regulation. LincRNAs are a class of RNA which are greater than 200 nucleotides in length and do not serve as a template for protein synthesis or overlap protein-coding genes. We are currently studying a mutant line of Arabidopsis thaliana with a mutated meiosis-specific lincRNA. Several abnormalities, including fusion and bridges between nonhomologous chromosomes, were previously observed in in this line. We used fluorescence immunolocalization coupled with three dimensional deconvolution microscopy to further characterize the phenotype of this mutant. Fluorescently-labeled antibodies were used to observe and characterize meiotic proteins ASY1, SYN1, ZYP1, RAD51, MLH1, and MLH3 in the mutant.  Their localization patterns were compared between the mutant and wild type. This comparison could help explain meiotic processes that are defective in the mutant and elucidate possible roles for lincRNAs in meiosis.

My Experience

I am very thankful for the opportunity to work in the Pawlowski Laboratory. My research project was both challenging and rewarding. My mentor and PI were very helpful and patient in helping to advance my project as well as my development as a scientist. I learned to complete and utilize complex procedures in a short time and see my work fit into a larger goal. Weekly seminars as well as discussion with students and researchers gave me an increased exposure to current plant research and improved my confidence in discussing concepts in molecular biology and genomics. The internship also gave me a clearer understanding of graduate school programs and research which will help as I continue to develop my career in plant science.