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Damon R Lisch

Botany and Plant Pathology 

  • Associate Professor
WSLR Room B032

Dr. Lisch is interested in the regulation and evolution of plant transposable elements.  Transposable elements, or transposons, are, by far, the most dynamic part of the eukaryotic genome, and the majority, often the vast majority, of plant genomes are composed of these genomic parasites. Although they are an important source of genetic novelty, transposons can also be a significant source of detrimental mutations.  Because of this, plants (and indeed all eukaryotes) have evolved a sophisticated "immune system" whose function is to detect and epigenetically silence them.  Dr. Lisch's research centers on determining the means by which transposons are detected and then maintained in a silenced state.  To do this, the Lisch lab has focused on MuDR, a transposon in maize that can be reliably and heritably silenced by a naturally occurring derivative of that element.  Of course, epigenetic silencing is employed by plants and animals for a wide variety of other purposes, and epigenetic silencing pathways in plants are particularly diversified. However, whatever else they do, all of these pathways appear to be involved in transposon silencing as well, making transposons an excellent model for understanding how epigenetic information is encoded and propagated.  Finally, transposon mobilization and subsequent silencing can have dramatic effects on the expression of plant genes.  Current work in the Lisch lab combines a detailed analysis of MuDR transposon silencing with a global analysis of the effects of transposon silencing on plant gene  function and  phenotypic variation.

Selected Publications

Lisch, D. R. (2013). How important are transposons for evolution?. Nature Genetics Reviews, 23247435.

Lisch, D. R., & Bennetzen, J. (2011). Transposable Element Origins of Epigenetic Gene Regulation. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 21444239.

Li, H., Freeling, M., & Lisch, D. R. (2010). Epigenetic modifications are reprogrammed during vegetative phase change in maize. PNAS, 21135217.

Lisch, D. R. (2009). Epigenetic regulation of transposons in plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology, 19007329.

Singh, J., Freeling, M., & Lisch, D. R. (2008). A position effect on the heritability of silencing. PLoS Genetics, 18846225.

Woodhouse, M., Freeling, M., & Lisch, D. R. (2006). Initiation, establishment and maintenance of MuDR transposon silencing require distinct factors. PLoS Biology, 16968137.

Diao, X. M., Freeling, M., & Lisch, D. R. (2006). Horizontal Transfer of a Plant Transposable element. PLoS Biology, 4, 0119-0128.

Slotkin, R. K., Freeling, M., & Lisch, D. R. (2005). Heritable silencing of a transposon family is initiated by a naturally occurring inverted repeat derivative. Nature Genetics, 137, 641-644.

Lisch, D. R., Carey, C., Dorweiler, J., & Chandler, V. (2002). A mutation that prevents paramutation in maize also reverses Mutator transposon methylation. PNAS, 99, 6130-5.

Kidwell, M., & Lisch, D. R. (2001). Perspective: Transposable Elements, parasitic DNA, and genome evolution. Evolution, 55(1), 1-24.