Ph.D. student, City University of New York / New York Botanical Garden
Evolutionary developmental biology; Plant Genomics
I am interested in the evolution and development of fruits. Fruits are an evolutionary novelty that are integral for seed dispersal, and they have evolved a large diversity of forms. My research is focused on understanding the genetic network that specifies fruits, how this network evolved to specify the great diversity of fruit forms, and where this network originated.
I am using a two-pronged approach to address my research questions: (1) A candidate gene approach based on the fruit network from the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana (Brassicaceae), and (2) A transcriptomic approach in diverse seed plants. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the genetic mechanisms regulating dry fruit development and opercular dehiscence have been very well-characterized. These genes belong to different transcription factor families: MADS-box, bHLH, AP2/ERF, homeodomain, among others. Nevertheless, the understanding of these genes, outside this species, is still very limited; hence, in our research, we are interested in working in non-model plants that span the angiosperm tree of life. To better understand the evolution of the fruit developmental network in diverse fruits across angiosperms and how these genes lead to the appearance of this novel structure, we are using different tools such as RNA-seq analysis, bioinformatics, gene expression techniques (in situ hybridization, qRT-PCR), and knockdown analyses. My research will help to elucidate the evolution of the fruit, a novel and economically important plant structure.
Zumajo-Cardona, C. & N. Pabon-Mora. 2016. Evolution of the APETALA2 Gene Lineage in Seed Plants. Molecular Biology and Evolution doi:10.1093/molbev/msw059