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Sainsbury Laboratory

I am interested in understanding how plant cells and organs acquire identity and how plants adapt their development in response to other organisms. During my PhD, I studied cell differentiation and cell fate stabilization of the root ground tissue layers under the supervision of Dr. Philip Benfey at Duke University, USA (Drapek et al. 2018, Chen, Drapek et al. 2019).

In my current work, I am studying how legumes develop a specialised root-borne structure termed nodules. Nodules are formed to accommodate soil bacteria called rhizobia that can assimilate atmospheric nitrogen into a form readily accessible to the host plant (a process termed rhizobia-legume symbiosis). I am studying the role phytohormones play in the organogenesis and differentiation of nodules under the supervision of Drs. Giles Oldroyd and Alexander Jones. I’m also an EMBO Long-Term Fellow and recipient of the Marie Sklodowska Curie individual fellowship.

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Key Publications

Chen WQ*, Drapek C*, Li DX, Xu ZH, Benfey PN, Bai SN. Histone deacetylase HDA19 affects cortical cell fate by interacting with SCARECROW in the Arabidopsis root. Plant Physiology. 108, 276-288. (2019)


Drapek C., Sparks, E.E., Marhavy P., Andersen T.G., Hennacy J.H., Geldner, N. and Benfey P.N. Minimum requirements for changing and maintaining cell fate in the Arabidopsis root. Nature Plants. 4, 586-595. (2018)


Pierre-Jerome, E.*, Drapek C.*, Benfey P.N. Regulation of Division and Differentiation of Plant Stem Cells. Annual Reviews in Cell & Developmental Biology. 34, 289-310. (2018)


Drapek, C. Sparks, E.E., Benfey P.N. Uncovering gene regulatory networks controlling plant cell differentiation. Trends in Genetics. 33, 529–539 (2017).


Sparks, E.E., Drapek, C., Gaudinier, A., Li, S., Ansariola, M., Shen, N., Hennacy, J.H., Zhang, J., Turco, G., Petricka, J.J., Foret, J., Hartemink, A.J., Gordân, R., Megraw, M., Brady, S.M., Benfey, P.N. 2016. Establishment of Expression in the SHORTROOT- SCARECROW Transcriptional Cascade through Opposing Activities of Both Activators and Repressors. Developmental Cell 39, 585–596. (2016)


*denotes equal contribution

Research Associate
Dr Colleen  Drapek

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