Blake C. Meyers, Ph.D.

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Honorary Adjunct Professor

Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program
Molecular Genetics and Genomics Program

  • (314) 587-1422

  • Donald Danforth Plant Science Center



  • The function, biogenesis & evolution of small RNAs in plants

Research Abstract:

The primary focus of the Meyers lab is the biology of small RNAs in plants, including their diverse functions, biogenesis, and evolution. With our many collaborators, we have pioneered genomic analysis of small RNAs and their targets, working with "next-gen" sequencing technologies nearly since their invention. Our early work with next-gen sequencing led to the development of informatics and analysis tools that we used to characterize small RNA pathways in Arabidopsis, rice, maize and other plants. The lab continued to develop mRNA and small RNA analyses using different types of next-gen sequencing and techniques. The Meyers lab has widely applied these methods to study diverse plant genomes and their RNA products. Specific areas of research include microRNAs, heterochromatic siRNAs and the connection to DNA methylation, microRNA targets, non-coding RNAs, and gene silencing. A current emphasis of our work is phased, secondary siRNAs in plants (aka "phasiRNAs"), including their roles in post-transcriptional control of diverse protein-coding genes, and in reproductive biology, mainly in anthers. Originally characterized in grasses, there are two classes of phasiRNAs are transiently abundant during anther development, at the premeiotic and meiotic stages; we have shown these emerged coincident with flowering plants and were lost in some lineages. The roles of these small RNAs are poorly characterized, and many of our current experiments focus on these molecules.

We also continue to study disease resistance genes in plants, name the NLR or "NB-LRR" genes that provide the first line of defense in many specific plant-pathogen interactions. These genes are targets of an unusually diverse set of microRNAs, triggering phasiRNAs, and providing an excellent case study for post-transcriptional control and its evolution in plants.

Mentorship and Commitment to Diversity Statement:
My mentoring philosophy is based on my desire to help train, promote, and develop future generations of diverse, creative, collaborative, respectful, scientifically rigorous professionals. Over the approximately two decades that I have had my own lab, I have worked to create a harmonious, international, and productive team of scientists that are diverse in their backgrounds, but all committed to a common effort to advance our knowledge and skills. Our work on small RNA biology demands a range of skills, talents, and interests, and I am committed to fostering these traits and providing opportunities for growth for my lab members and our many collaborators.

Selected Publications:

Lee YS, Maple R, Dürr J, Dawson A, Tamim S, del Genio C, Papareddy R, Luo A, Lamb JC, Sylvester AW, Birchler JA, Meyers BC, Nodine MD, Rouster J, Gutierrez-Marcos J. A retrotransposon surveillance mechanism that safeguards plant male fertility during heat stress. (2021) Nature Plants. 7, 34–41. doi: 10.1038/s41477-020-00818-5.

Bélanger S, Pokhrel S, Czymmek K, Meyers BC. (2020) Pre-meiotic, 24-nt reproductive phasiRNAs are abundant in anthers of wheat and barley but not rice and maize. Plant Physiology. 184:1407-1423. doi: 10.1104/pp.20.00816. bioRxiv, doi: 10.1101/2020.06.18.160440.

Huang K, Demirci F, Meyers BC, Caplan JL. (2020) Quantitative, super-resolution localization of small RNAs with sRNA-PAINT. Nucleic Acids Research. 48:e96. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkaa623. bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/716696v1

Teng C*, Zhang H*, Hammond R, Kuang H, Meyers BC†, Walbot V†. (2020) Dicer-like 5 deficiency confers temperature-sensitive male sterility in maize. Nature Communications, 11: 2912. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16634-6 bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/498410 *equal contributions †co-corresponding authors

Baldrich P, Rutter RD, Zandkarimi H, Podicheti R, Meyers BC†, Innes RW†. (2019) Plant extracellular vesicles contain diverse small RNA species and are enriched in 10 to 17 nucleotide “tiny” RNAs. The Plant Cell, 31: 315-324. doi: 10.1105/tpc.18.00872. bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/472928 †co-corresponding authors

Kakrana A., Mathioni SM, Huang K, Hammond R, Vandivier L, Patel P, Arikit S, Shevchenko O, Harkess AE, Kingham B, Gregory BD, Leebens-Mack JH, Meyers BC. (2018) Plant 24-nt reproductive phasiRNAs from intramolecular duplex mRNAs in diverse monocots. Genome Research, 28: 1333-1344. doi: 10.1101/gr.228163.117.

Patel P, Mathioni S, Kakrana A, Shatkay H, Meyers BC. (2018) Reproductive phasiRNAs in grasses are compositionally distinct from other classes of small RNAs. New Phytologist, 220: 851-864. doi: 10.1111/nph.15349. bioRxiv, doi: 10.1101/242727.

Axtell MJ, Meyers BC. (2018) Revisiting criteria for plant miRNA annotation in the era of big data. The Plant Cell, 30:272-284. doi: 10.1105/tpc.17.00851

Last Updated: 3/23/2021 3:04:51 PM

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