My lab explored how the fern Pteris vittata is able to grow and accumulate high levels of arsenic in its fronds. We have identified several genes that have been experimentally shown to be necessary for arsenic tolerance in this fern. Our current research goals are to determine how the proteins encoded by these genes enable the plant to transport arsenic from the root and transport it to the shoot, where the deadly arsenic is sequestered in the vacuoles of the cells.
We are also interested in understanding how the sex of the fern gametophyte is determined by a pheromone, which is made then secreted by the female and causes her neighbors to be male. One important goal is to identify the structure of the pheromone. Knowing its structure will allow us to figure out how the signal is transduced and how the pheromone promotes the development of male traits while suppressing the development of female traits.