Scott Poethig

Dr. Scott Poethig

John H. and Margaret B. Fassitt Professor


Research Interests

103E Lynch


Ph.D., Yale University, 1981 

M.S., Yale University, 1977 

B.A., College of Wooster, 1974

Research Interests

 Plants change as they develop. Some of these changes occur gradually over a long period of time, whereas others occur quickly, often resulting in major changes in shoot morphology. This latter phenomenon is termed phase change, and is the primary focus of our research. We are particularly interested in the juvenile-to-adult transition, also known as vegetative phase change. This transition precedes flowering, and is characterized by changes in shoot architecture and patterns of cellular differentiation, by an increase in reproductive competence, and by changes in a variety of physiological processes. Vegetative phase change is promoted by a group of plant-specific transcription factors (SBP/SPL proteins), whose expression is repressed during the juvenile phase by the miRNAs, miR156 and miR157. Vegetative phase change occurs when the levels of miR156/miR157 decline, leading to an increase in the abundance of SBP/SPL proteins. We are studying how the temporal expression pattern of miR156/miR157 is regulated, and how these miRNAs produce the morphological and physiological changes associated with vegetative phase change

We work primarily with Arabidopsis thaliana, but are also exploring the mechanism and evolution of vegetative phase change in the Acacieae, a pantropical family of nitrogen-fixing trees that includes species that do, and do not, undergo vegetative phase change. Our analysis of a group of Australian Acacias that do not undergo vegetative phase revealed that this phenotype is associated with a change in the expression pattern of miR156, and we are working to determine the genetic basis of this change.  We are also studying the function of miR156 in the ant-Acacias of Central America, which produce a suite of morphological traits (swollen thorns, extra-floral nectaries, Beltian bodies) that facilitate their mutualistic relationship with ants.

A third area of interest is the development of genetic tools for Arabidopsis thaliana. We recently produced a set of transgenic lines (Traffic Lines) that significantly increase the speed and decrease the cost of many common tasks in genetic analysis.  We are currently developing a set of Traffic lines that will allow investigators to monitor the segregation of 1 mB segments across the entire genome, and identify recombination events within these regions. 

Courses Taught

Biology 17: The Biology of Food

Biology 540: Genetic Analysis

Selected Publications

Poethig, R. S., Cullina, W.L, Doody, E.,Floyd, T., Fouracre, J.P., Hu,T.,  Xu, M., Zhao, J. (in press) Short-interval Traffic Lines: versatile tools for genetic analysis in Arabidopsis thaliana

Doody, E., Zha, Y., He, J. and R. S. Poethig (2022). The genetic basis of natural variation in the timing of vegetative phase change in Arabidopsis thaliana.  Development 149:dev200321. doi:10.1242/dev.200321

Lawrence, E. H., Springer, C. J., Helliker, B. R. (2022). The carbon economics of vegetative phase change. Plant Cell Environ. 45:1286-1297. doi:10.1111/pce.14281

Xu, M, T. Hu, and R. S. Poethig (2021). Low light intensity delays vegetative phase change. Plant Physiol. 187:1177-1188 https//

Fouracre, J. P., He, J., Chen V. J., Sidoli, S. and R. S. Poethig (2021). VAL genes regulate vegetative phase change via miR156-dependent and miR156-independent mechanisms. PLoS Genetics 17: e1009626.

Lawrence E. H., Springer, C. J., Helliker, B. R. and R. S. Poethig (2021). miR156-mediated changes in leaf composition lead to altered photosynthetic traits during vegetative phase change. New Phytol. 231:1008-1022 doi:10.1111/nph.17007

Lawrence, E. H., Leichty, A. R., Ma, C., Strauss, S. H. and R. S. Poethig. (2021). Vegetative phase change in Populus tremula x alba. New Phytol. 231: 351-364 doi:10.1111/nph.17316

Fouracre, J. P. and R. S. Poethig (2020). Lonely at the top? Regulation of shoot apical meristem activity by intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  Curr. Op. Plant Biol. 58:17-24.

Fouracre, J. P., Chen, V. J., and R. S. Poethig (2020) ALTERED MERISTEM PROGRAM1 regulates leaf identity independently of miR156-mediated translational repression. Development 147: dev186874.  doi:10.1242/dev.186874 

Leichty, A. R. and R. S. Poethig (2019). Development and evolution of age-dependent defenses in ant-acacias. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 116: 15596-15601

Fouracre, J. P. and R. S. Poethig (2019). A role for the shoot apical meristem in the specification of juvenile leaf identity in Arabidopsis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci  116:10168-10177

He, J, Xu, M., Willmann, M. R.,  McCormick, K.,  Hu, T., Yang, L.,  Starker, C. G.,  Voytas, D. F., Meyers, B. C.,  and R. S. Poethig (2018). Threshold-dependent repression of SPL gene expression by miR156/miR157 controls vegetative phase change in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS Genetics 14(4): e1007337

Xu, M., Hu, T., and R. S. Poethig (2018). ACTIN-RELATED PROTEIN6 promotes the transcription of MIR156A and MIR156C by facilitating the deposition of H3K4me3. Development 145: dev152868. doi:10.1242/dev.152868 

Guo, C., Xu Y., Shi, M., Lai,Y.,Wu, X.,Wang, H., Zhu, Z.,Poethig, R. S.,and G. Wu (2017) Repression of miR156 by miR159 regulates the timing of the juvenile-to-adult transition in Arabidopsis.  Plant Cell 29:1293-1304. 

Xu, M., Hu, T., Zhao, J., Park, M-Y, Earley, K.W., Wu, G., Yang, L., R. S. Poethig (2016). Developmental functions of miR156-regulated SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) genes in Arabidopsis thaliana.  PLoS Genetics 12(8): e1006263 

Xu, M., Hu, T., Smith, M. R. and R. S. Poethig (2016). Epigenetic regulation of vegetative phase change in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 28: 28-41.

Poethig, R. S. (2016). Ian Sussex: simple tools, clever experiments and new insights into plant development. Development 143: 3224-3225. 

Fouracre, J. P. and R. S. Poethig (2016) The role of small RNAs in vegetative shoot development. Curr. Op. Plant Biol. 29: 64-72.

Wu, G., Rossidivito, G., Hu, T., Berlyand, Y., and R. S. Poethig (2015). Traffic lines: new tools for genetic analysis in Arabidopsis thaliana. Genetics 200: 35-45

Gillmor, C. S, Silva-Ortega, C. O., Willmann, M. R., Buendîa-Monreal, M., and R. S. Poethig (2014). The Arabidopsis Mediator CDK8 module genes CCT (MED12) and GCT (MED13) are global regulators of developmental phase transitions. Development 141:4580-4589

Poethig, R. S. (2013) Vegetative phase change and shoot maturation in plants. In: Current Topics in Developmental Biology 105: 125-152

Yang, L., Xu, M., Koo, Y., He, J., and R. S. Poethig (2013). Sugar promotes vegetative phase change in Arabidopsis thaliana by repressing the expression of MIR156A and MIR156C. eLife 2:e00260

CV (file)