Dr. Meyers's current research includes programs that emphasize bioinformatics and plant functional genomics. These programs include (1) analyses of small RNA, DNA methylation, and the genomes of rice, Arabidopsis and other species using short-read DNA sequencing technologies, (2) development and implementation of novel informatics approaches for the storage, analysis, display, and public release of these data, (3) functional genomics analyses of plant disease resistance gene homologs identified through genomic sequencing. The Meyers lab pioneered the application of the prior generation of high-throughput, short read technologies (MPSS) for mRNA and small RNA analyses. Newer technologies offer dramatic cost savings, significant technical improvements, and better quality data. We are actively applying these technologies to a variety of questions about small RNA biology and gene expression, particularly in rice.
Our second primary area of research is to understand the evolution and function of the Toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) protein domain in plant defenses. The ~200 amino acid Toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) domain has been implicated in protein-protein interactions in animal signal transduction. TIR-encoding genes are more prevalent in plants than animals and are found in three large families in Arabidopsis. This domain is typically associated with Nucleotide Binding Site-Leucine Rich Repeat (NBS-LRR) proteins that are encoded by many plant disease resistance genes. These genes provide the first line of defense in many specific plant-pathogen interactions. Approximately 100 of these proteins containing an N-terminal Toll-like (TIR) domain are encoded in the Arabidopsis Col-0 genome. Of particular interest to the lab are two additional groups of genes that encode Toll-like proteins but lacking the LRR, as these are similar to a class of adapter proteins that signal in animal defense responses.