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Salk scientist Joseph Ecker, appointed as HHMI-GBMF Investigator
Date:6/16/2011

tiny mustard weed Arabidopsis thaliana and directed much of the sequencing project. Commonly known as thale cress, Arabidopsis was the first flowering plant to have its entire genome unlocked and is now widely considered one of the most important model organisms for the study of plant genetics and genomes.

"Without Joe's groundbreaking contributions, Arabidopsis would be just another weed," says Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Joanne Chory, Ph.D., professor and director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and holder of the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology. As Chory stated back in 2010, "The study of plant genomes might contribute more to human health and well-being than the study of any animal genome." "I am delighted for Joe, because he has almost singlehandedly made Arabidopsis the model of choice for plant functional genomics studies owing to his vision, his generosity to the community, and his great enthusiasm for solving problems of scale."

In the last few years, Ecker's laboratory started to zero in on genomic methylation patterns, which are essential for normal development and associated with a number of key cellular processes, including carcinogenesis. After perfecting his high-throughput method of mapping the precise position of these individual DNA modifications throughout the genome in Arabidopsis, Ecker is now applying the technological innovations and analytical tools he developed in plants to work on disease-related problems in humans.

"It is a real honor to be selected as an HHMI-GBMF Investigator. With this generous support, my laboratory will be able to pursue new avenues of investigation of epigenetic mechanisms that would otherwise not be possible," said Ecker.

Ecker has also led groundbreaking studies on the gaseous plant hormone ethylene. Up to one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost or spoiled due to the effects of ethylene, which shortens t
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Contact: Kat Kearney
Kkearney@salk.edu
858-453-4100 x1226
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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