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Hong Ma

Professor of Biology, Huck Chair in Plant Reproductive Development and Evolution
Hong Ma


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988

B.A., Temple University, 1983


Postdoctoral Training

California Institute of Technology, 1988-1990



Elected Fellow of AAAS, 2011

Distinguished Professor in Biology, 2008

Faculty Scholars Medal in Life and Health Sciences, 2005

The John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship 2004-2005

American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award 1994-1997


Research Interests

Molecular Genetics of Plant Reproductive Development; Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics of Angiosperms and Other Eukaryotes

I have a long standing interest in the molecular basis of plant reproductive development and evolutionary biology, using molecular genetic, cell biological, genomic and bioinformatic approaches.

In the area of functional studies of genes important for plant reproductive development, we focus on molecular basis of meiotic homologous recombination and chromosome condensation and segregation, gene networks controlling anther and pollen development, and regulatory elements ensuring reproductive development in response to environmental changes, such as light, drought and heat. A recent study revealed a negative interaction between TOE proteins and CO, a crucial mediator of long-day promotion of flowering in Arabidopsis; other discoveries include an essential role of MMD1, a PHD finger protein in ensuring normal meiotic chromosome condensation, and the function of DYT1 in regulating a complex network for anther somatic cell development and function.

A second focus in our lab is molecular evolution of reproductive genes and their homologs, as well as other regulatory gene families, such as those of epigenetic regulators, such as histone methylases and demethylases, as well as RNA polymerases, which are important for small RNA biogenesis. We also have a program on the systematic investigation of angiosperm phylogenies using nuclear genes, largely obtained using transcriptomics, including the phylogenies of major angiosperm lineages and large families such as Brassicaceae, Asteraceae, and Rosaceae. We also are interested in understanding the phylogenies of other eukaryotic groups, such as the early divergences of eukaryotic supergroups. These phylogenies can then provide a framework for addressing other evolutionary questions, such as molecular clock estimates of divergence times, shifts of rate of diversification, and ancestral character reconstruction of morphological and other features.