Dazhong (Dave) Zhao

Biological Sciences

Education and Training

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, The Pennsylvania State University, 1998-2001
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Peking University, China, 1996-1998
  • PhD, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, 1996
  • MS, Hunan Agricultural University, China, 1993
  • BS, Huazhong Agricultural University, China, 1990

Courses Taught

  • BIO SCI 315: Cell Biology
  • BIO SCI 490/490G: Molecular Genetics
  • BIO SCI 670: Senior Seminar in Biological Sciences

Research Interests

Molecular Genetics of Plant Reproductive Development; Molecular Mechanisms of Germline Specification; Male Sterility and Hybrid Breeding; Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation of Heat Stress

Germ cells are special cells that undergo meiosis to form male and female gametes in both plants and animals. A fundamental question in developmental biology is how germ cells are specified during sexual reproduction. Using molecular genetic, cell biological, biochemical, biophysical, genomic, and proteomic approaches, research in our lab aims at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying germ cell fate determination using the plant model organism Arabidopsis. Our current projects include:

  1. Dissect the molecular functions of EXCESS MICROSPOROCYTES1 (EMS1) receptor kinase-linked signaling pathway in differentiation of microsporocytes (also called pollen mother cells: PMC) and their surrounding somatic tapetal cells during early anther (the male reproductive organ) development.
  2. Elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which microRNA160 (miR160)-orchestrated auxin signaling controls specification of megaspore mother cell (MMC) in ovule, a part of the makeup of the female reproductive organ.

Other projects:

  1. Develop two-line hybrid breeding system using sorghum.
  2. Identify genes essential for flower development in sorghum using genomic and molecular genetic tools.
  3. Investigate genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying heat stress during male reproduction in strawberry using genomic and molecular genetic approaches.

Selected Publications

Huang, J., Zhao, L., Malik, S., Gentile, B.R., Xiong, V., Arazi, T., Owen, H.A., Friml, J. and Zhao, D. (2022) Specification of female germline by microRNA orchestrated auxin signaling in Arabidopsis. Nature Communications 13 (1): 6960. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-34723-6.

Malik, S. and Zhao, D. (2022) Epigenetic regulation of heat stress in plant male reproduction. Frontiers in Plant Science13: 826473. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2022.826473.

Huang, J., Li, Z., Biener, G., Xiong, E., Malik, S., Eaton, N., Zhao, C.Z., Raicu, V., Kong, H. and Zhao, D. (2017) Carbonic anhydrases function in anther cell differentiation downstream of the receptor-like kinase EMS1. Plant Cell 29 (6): 1335-1356. doi: 10.1105/tpc.16.00484.

Li, Z., Wang, Y., Huang, J., Ahsan, N., Biener, G., Paprocki, J., Thelen, J., Raicu, V. and Zhao, D. (2017). Two SERK receptor-like kinases interact with the receptor-like kinase EMS1 in anther cell fate determination. Plant Physiology 173 (1): 326-337.

Xin, Z., Huang, J., Smith, A.R., Chen, J., Burke, J., Sattler, S. and Zhao, D. (2017). Characterization of a new and easilyrecognizable nuclear male sterile mutant of sorghum. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0165195. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165195.

Smith, A.R. and Zhao, D. (2016).  Sterility caused by floral organ degeneration and abiotic stresses in Arabidopsis and cereal grains. Frontiers in Plant Science 7: 1503. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.01503.

Huang, J., Zhang, T., Linstroth, L., Tillman, Z., Otegui, M., Owen, H.A. and Zhao, D. (2016). Control of anther cell differentiation by the TPD1 small protein ligand and its receptor EMS1 in Arabidopsis. PLoS Genetics 12(8): e1006147. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006147.

Liu, X*., Huang, J*., Wang, Y., Owen, H.A. and Zhao, D.  (2010). The role of floral organs in carpels, an Arabidopsisloss-of-function mutation in MicroRNA160a, in organogenesis and the mechanism regulating its expression. Plant Journal 62: 416-428 (*equal contribution).

Liu, X., Huang, J., Parameswaran, S., Ito, T., Seubert, B., Auer, M., Rymaszewski, A., Jia, G., Owen, H.A. and Zhao, D. (2009). The SPOROCYTELESS/NOZZLE gene is involved in controlling stamen identity in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology151: 1401-1411.

Zhao, D. (2009). Control of anther cell differentiation: a teamwork of receptor-like kinases. Plant Reproduction 22: 221-228.

Jia, G., Liu, X., Owen, H. A. and Zhao, D. (2008). Signaling of cell fate determination by the TPD1 small protein and EMS1 receptor kinase. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105:2220-2225.