Dr. Meyers's current research includes programs that emphasize bioinformatics and plant functional genomics. These programs include (1) analyses of small RNA, DNA methylation, and the genomes of rice, Arabidopsis and other species using short-read DNA sequencing technologies, (2) development and implementation of novel informatics approaches for the storage, analysis, display, and public release of these data, (3) functional and evolutionary analyses of several gene families of interest, particularly miRNAs, phasiRNAs and the proteins involved in their biogenesis, as well as NB-LRR disease resistance genes.
The Meyers lab pioneered the application of the prior generation of high-throughput, short read technologies (MPSS) for mRNA and small RNA analyses. We led the way to the shift to Illumina's SBS sequencing, co-developing the widely-used application of small RNA sequencing. We have also developed a number of other applications of this technology, plus the informatics to handle those data. We are actively applying these methods to a variety of questions about small RNA biology and gene expression, particularly in crop plants, but also several models.
Phased, secondary, small interfering RNAs (phasiRNAs) are of particular interest to us. Originally designated as trans-acting small interfering RNAs or tasiRNAs, the wider group of phasiRNAs are triggered by microRNAs and produced as siRNAs. Like microRNAs, phasiRNA function in the suppression of target transcript levels. Data from a broad range of species have demonstrated that the count of phasiRNA generating-loci ranges from tens (Arabidopsis) to hundreds (Medicago, soybean, maize) to thousands (rice). In the dicots, phasiRNA sources and targets include several large or conserved families of genes, such as those encoding NB-LRR disease resistance proteins or transcription factors. In some plants, NB-LRRs have a particularly high level of redundancy in miRNA and phasiRNA-mediated regulation. In the grasses, phasiRNAs from non-coding RNAs are prevalent in anthers, during early development and meiosis.