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Professor Elliot Meyerowitz

Professor Elliot Meyerowitz

Distinguished Associate

Laboratory's Inaugural Director (Jan 2011-Dec 2012)

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR
Office Phone: +44(0)1223 761107


Elliot Meyerowitz did his undergraduate work at Columbia University (A.B. in Biology, 1973), where he worked part-time in the laboratory of Cyrus Levinthal on combined microscopic and computational methods for tracing axons and dendritic trees in the nervous systems of fish. His graduate work was in the Department of Biology at Yale University (Ph.D. 1977), where he worked in the laboratory of Douglas Kankel on the interaction of eye and brain development in Drosophila, by use of genetic mosaics. From 1977 to 1979 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Hogness in the Biochemistry Department at the Stanford University School of Medicine, developing and using methods for the molecular cloning of genes in the early days of gene cloning and genomics. Since 1980 he has been a faculty member in the Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where he served as Division Chair from 2000 to 2010, and where he is now George W. Beadle Professor of Biology. In 2011 he became, while on leave from Caltech, the Inaugural Director of the new Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University.

Among his honours are the Genetics Society of America Medal (1996); the International Prize for Biology, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1997); the Lounsbery Award of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1999); the R.G. Harrison Prize of the International Society of Developmental Biologists (2005); and the Balzan Prize (2006). He received an honorary doctorate from the École Normale Supérieure in Lyons in 2007. Professor Meyerowitz is past president of the Genetics Society of America, the International Society for Plant Molecular Biology, and the Society for Developmental Biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (he completed a term as a member of the Academy Council in 2009), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is a foreign member of the Royal Society, a foreign associate of the Académie des Sciences of France, and an Associate Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization.

Research Interests

My laboratory has the goal of understanding the mechanisms of plant development, using both experimental and computational methods to test hypotheses. We concentrate on the shoot apical meristem and its derivative structures (primarily flowers), because this meristem is responsible for the development of the entire above-ground part of the mature plant, and utilizes a number of different pattern-forming processes that are as yet poorly understood. Our experimental organism is predominantly Arabidopsis thaliana, because of the ease with which genetic and molecular biological studies can be done using that model system. We also use other plant species in the laboratory when they offer an experimental advantage. Our method of study is what we have termed Computational Morphodynamics – the combination of real-time live imaging to capture the dynamics of plant development, couching our hypotheses as mathematical models (so as to be absolutely explicit about assumptions and parameters), and then testing them computationally and experimentally. We concentrate on three processes in plant development - the development of flowers, the growth of shoots, and the de novo generation of shoot meristems during regeneration.

Key Publications

Yang, W., Schuster, C., Beahan, C.T., Charoensawan, V., Peaucelle, A., Bacic, A., Doblin, M.S., Wightman, R. and Meyerowitz E.M. (2016) Regulation of meristem morphogenesis by cell wall synthases in Arabidopsis. Current Biology, in press.

Provart, N. J., Alonso, J., Assmann, S. M., Bergmann, D., Brady, S. M., Brkljacic, J., Browse, J., Chapple ,C., Colot, V., Cutler, S., Dangl, J., Ehrhardt, D., Friesner, J. D., Frommer, W. B., Grotewold, E., Meyerowitz, E., Nemhauser, J., Nordborg, M., Pikaard, C., Shanklin, J., Somerville, C., Stitt, M., Torii, K. U., Waese, J., Wagner, D. and McCourt, P. (2016) Tansley Review, 50 years of Arabidopsis research: highlights and future directions. New Phytologist 209, 921-944. DOI: 10.1111/nph.13687

Tobin, C. J. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2016) Real-time lineage analysis to study cell division orientation in the Arabidopsis shoot meristem. Plant Cell Division Methods and Protocols, ed. M.C. Caillaud, Methods in Molecular Biology 1370, 147- 167. doi 10.1007/978-1-4939-2_12.

Gruel, J., Landrein, B., Tarr, P., Schuster, C., Refahi, Y., Sampathkumar, A., Hamant, O., Meyerowitz, E. and Jönsson, H. (2016) An epidermis-driven mechanism positions and scales stem cell niches in plants. Sci. Adv. 2, e1500989.

Luo, C.J., Wightman, R., Meyerowitz, E.M., and Smoukov, S. (2015) 3D fibre scaffold as an investigative tool for studying the morphogenesis of isolated plant cells. BMC Plant Biology 15, 211 doi:10.1186/s12870-015-0581-7 

Melnyk, C.W., Schuster, C., Leyser, O., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) A developmental framework for graft formation and vascular reconnection in Arabidopsis thaliana, Curr. Biol. 25, 1306-1318. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.03.032 

Shapiro, B.E., Tobin, C., Mjolsness, E.M. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Analysis of cell division patterns in the Arabidopsis shoot apical meristem. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 112, 4815-4820. 

Kareem, A., Durgaprasad, K., Sugimoto, K., Du, Y., Pulianmackal, A.J., Trivedi, Z.B., Abhayadev, P.V., Pinon, V., Meyerowitz, E.M., Scheres. B., and Prasad, K. (2015) PLETHORA genes control regeneration by a two-step mechanism.  Curr. Biol. 25, 1017-1030. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.022

Nimchuk, Z.L., Zhou, Y., Tarr, P.T., Peterson, B.A., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Plant stem cell maintenance by transcriptional cross regulation of related receptor kinases. Development 142, 1043-1049. DOI: 10.1242/dev.119677. 

Melnyk, C.W. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Plant Grafting. Curr. Biol. 25, R183-R188. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.029

Zhou, Y., Liu, X., Engstrom, E.M., Nimchuk, Z.L., Pruneda-Paz, J., Tarr, P.T., Yan, A., Kay, S.A., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Control of plant stem cell function by conserved interacting transcriptional regulators. Nature 517, 377-380. doi:10.1038/nature13853 

Qi, J., Wang, Y., Yu, T., Cunha, A., Wu, B., Vernoux, T., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jiao, Y. (2014) Auxin depletion from leaf primordia contributes to organ patterning.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 18769-18774. 

Sampathkumar, A., Yan, A., Krupinski, P. and  Meyerowitz, E.M. (2014) Physical forces regulate plant development and morphogenesis. Curr. Biol.24, R475-R483.  

Wang, Y., Wang, J., Shi, B., Yu, T. Qi. J., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jiao, Y. (2014) Leaf axil stem cell niche establishment by hormones.  Plant Cell 26, 2055-2067. doi:10.1105/tpc.114.123083

Sampathkumar, A., Krupinski, P., Wightman, R., Milani, P., Berquand, A., Boudaoud, A., Hamant, O., Jönsson, H. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2014) Subcellular and supracellular mechanical stress prescribes cytoskeleton behavior in Arabidopsis cotyledon cells.  eLife 2014;3:e01967 DOI: 

Wellmer, F; Bowman, J.L., Davies, B., Férrandiz, C., Fletcher, J.C., Franks, R.G., Graciet, E., Gregis, V., Ito, T., Jack, T.P., Jiao, Y., Kater, M.M., Ma, H., Meyerowitz, E.M., Prunet, N., and Riechmann, J.L. (2014) Flower development: Open questions and future directions.  Methods in Molecular Biology 1110, 103-124.

Shapiro, B.E., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Mjolsness, E.M. (2013) Using Cellzilla for Plant Growth Simulations. Frontiers in Plant Science doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00408

Li, W., Zhou, Y., Liu, X., Yu, P., Cohen, J. D., & Meyerowitz, E. M. (2013). LEAFY controls auxin response pathways in floral primordium formation. Science Signaling, 6(270), ra23. doi:10.1126/scisignal.2003937 PMID: 23572147

Zhang, X., Zhou, Y., Lian, D., Wu, S., Liu, R. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2013) Transcription repressor HANABA TARANU (HAN) controls flower development via integrating multiple hormone actions, floral organ specification and GATA3 family auto-regulation. Plant Cell 25, 83-101. PMID: 23335616

Sugimoto, K. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2013) Regeneration in Arabidopsis tissue culture. In Methods in Molecular Biology: Plant Organogenesis, ed. I. de Smet, Springer, pp. 265-276, ISBN 978-1-62703-220-9. PMID: 23299682

Bowman, J.L., Smyth, D.R. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2012) The ABC model of flower development: then and now. Development 139, 4095-4098. doi:10.1242/dev.083972 PMID: 23093420

Roeder, A.H.K., Cunha, A., Ohno, C.K. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2012) Cell cycle regulates cell type in the Arabidopsis sepal.  Development 139, 4416-4427. doi: 10.1242/dev.082925 PMID: 23095885

Segonzac, C., Nimchuk, Z.L., Beck, M., Tarr, P.T., Robatzek, S., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Zipfel, C. (2012) The shoot apical meristem regulatory peptide CLV3 does not activate innate immunity. Plant Cell 24, 3186-3192. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.091264 PMID: 22923673

Roeder, A.H.K., Cunha, A., Burl, M.C. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2012) Computational image analysis glossary for biologists. Development 139, 3071-3080. doi: 10.1242/dev.076414 PMID: 22872081

Chickarmane, V.S., Gordon, S.P., Tarr, P.T., Heisler, M.G. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2012) Cytokinin signaling as a positional cue for patterning the apical-basal axis of the growing Arabidopsis shoot meristem. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA, 109, 4002-4007  doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200636109  PMCID: PMC3309735 PMID: 22345559

Cunha, A., Tarr, P.T., Roeder, A.H.K., Altinok, A., Mjolsness, E. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2012) Computational analysis of live cell images of the Arabidopsis thaliana plant.  Methods Cell Biol. 110, 285-323. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-38803-9.00012-6 PMID: 22482954