What we do:


We study meiosis, a specialized cell division that reduces the chromosome number in the nucleus and leads to the production of gametes. Meiosis is is the most important source of genetic variation in eukaryotes and is also essential for accurate transmission of genetic material from parents to the progeny.

During early meiotic prophase, chromatin in the nucleus undergoes a dramatic reorganization. At this time, double-strand breaks are formed on DNA, which initiates meiotic recombination. Later on, the DNA double-strand breaks are repaired and, at the same time, homologous chromosomes recognize each other and pair.

Our primary interest is the mechanisms of meiotic recombination and how they can be modified to improve plant breeding. We are also interested in homologous chromosome pairing in meiosis and its relationship with meiotic recombination. To conduct these studies, we use two model plant systems, maize (Zea mays), one of the most important crop plants in the world, and a common weed, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Meiosis generates the genetic variation on which breeders apply selection. Studying meiosis in plants has the potential for developing methods for altering recombination rates in plant breeding, homologous gene replacement, and for acquiring apomixis. As meiosis is a universal process, results from studying meiosis in plants are transferable to other organisms, including humans, where meiosis failures have profound consequences, leading to spontaneous abortions, birth defects, and infertility.

Main projects in the Pawlowski lab:

1. Meiotic recombination landscape and mechanisms

2. The role of chromosome structure in recombination

3. Meiotic recombination and genome rearrangements in new polyploids

4. Chromosome dynamics in meiotic prophase


Our research is sponsored by NSF, ERA-CAPS, and BARD.


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