Connor Tumelty

Engineering Novel Epialleles via Directed DNA Methylation in Plants

Epigenetic information refers to chemical modifications to DNA and histones that can be inherited independently of the genetic sequence of a gene. These modifications control the expression of the gene and can alter the organism’s phenotype. In nature, a number of epialleles (alleles with identical sequences yet different epigenetic states) have been identified and often contribute to vast phenotypic diversity among a population of organisms. It is currently poorly understood whether epialleles can be engineered within plant systems. If possible, this could expand the toolbox available to plant breeders and engineers seeking to specify the phenotypes in their crops. I propose to perform an important proof-of-concept experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of engineering epialleles, using a visually obvious marker gene in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. I seek to understand if DNA methylation patterns can be engineered and if this epigenetic mark is stably inherited over multiple generations once it has been established.

Message to Sponsor

I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the SURF program and the Rose Hill Foundation for the support and the opportunity to pursue my research more deeply. Their invaluable assistance provides me with the ability to continue to expand my own knowledge and expertise in my field. I look forward to applying the techniques I learn and continue to be able to solve biological questions far into the future.
  • Major: Genetics and Plant Biology and Classical Civilizations
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
  • Mentor: Ben Williams