Contact us at:
Hong Ma
Hong Ma
Biology/Huck Institute for Life Sciences
Pennsylvania State University

Research Interests

Our lab is interested in understanding plant reproductive development at the molecular level, using the laboratory plant Arabidopsis thaliana as the experimental system. We approach this problem largely with molecular and genetic tools. In flowering plants, reproductive development encompasses a range of stages from floral meristem formation to fertilization.

One of our research emphases is the analysis of regulatory genes controlling early flower development using both mutants and transgenic plants carrying altered genes. Some of these genes encode putative transcription factors; in particular, we are interested in understanding the function of the AGAMOUS gene at the molecular level. In addition, we are studying a family of genes (called ASK genes) that may regulate protein turnover during development. One of them, ASK1, regulates both vegetative and flower development. We have recently begun to examine flower development from an evolutionary perspective, in collaboration with Prof. Claude dePamphilis in our department and others. A second focus in our lab is aimed at understanding genes important for male meiosis and pollen development. Meiosis is an important reproductive process in eukaryotes. We have discovered several new genes important for Arabidopsis meiosis. Although these genes share sequence similarity with genes in other eukaryotes, their functions in meiosis were not previously revealed. Therefore, we may have discovered novel regulators of meiosis. We are very excited about the opportunities to study meiotic genes using genetic and molecular tools, as well as cytological approaches. We are also interested in signal transduction and G protein function in plant development. We previously isolated genes encoding putative alpha and beta subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins. We are particularly interested in their potential roles during reproductive development.

We welcome interactions from members of the biological science community about topics of mutual interests, including collaborations of various extents. We encourage graduate and undergraduate students to visit our lab to learn more about our research, and we have research opportunities at different levels. Inquiries about positions at various levels are welcome.